National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Naomi Osaka’s ‘No’ Is Our Summer Master Class in Self-Care

Choosing yourself is revolutionary

Allison Wiltz
Published in
5 min readJun 7, 2021


Photo: WTA/Jimmie48

First and foremost, Naomi Osaka is an amazing athlete. She is a four-time Grand Slam champion. However, as a Haitian-Japanese woman, Osaka has faced tremendous pressure on and off the court. After using her platform to speak against racial injustices, the backlash came swiftly. When athletes faced harsh critiques for branching out beyond the realm of sports, Osaka stood firm in her conviction. Some of her motivation comes from activist athletes like Muhammad Ali. Last fall, at the U.S. Open Tennis Championship, Osaka wore a Black face mask with white letters reading Tamir Rice.

“Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. And as a black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis,” Osaka wrote in a statement posted to Twitter in both English and Japanese.

And now, here we are in National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and Osaka, 23, did something revolutionary — she said “no.” Osaka withdrew from the French Open after refusing to attend mandated press conferences. Sports journalists often ask athletes tough questions, particularly when they lose. Most fans have all seen some of these uncomfortable encounters.

According to The Ringer, “It was also clear Osaka didn’t love the questions reporters asked players after they lost.” As a result, Osaka will have to pay $140,000 in fines, according to Insider. Since then, relaxation app Calm has offered to pay these fines. It says it will also support other players opting out of the 2021 Grand Slam media interviews for mental health reasons.

According to Morning Brew, “Brands want to be seen as taking mental health concerns seriously, and Osaka gives them an opportunity to rally around the cause.”

When it comes to facing the ire of the media, Osaka is not alone. Some members of popular media once caricatured Serena Williams’ public image, claiming she was “raging” at the U.S. Open. This personification fit into a dangerous trope about Black women. While Williams says media scrutiny made her stronger



Allison Wiltz
Writer for

Womanist Scholar bylines @ Momentum, Oprah Daily, ZORA, GEN, EIC of Cultured #WEOC Founder