Calm App Offers to Pay Fines for Tennis Players Skipping Press After Naomi Osaka Withdraws from French Open

Naomi Osaka recently picked up a $15,000 fine for not participating in post-match media interviews during the French Open

Another supporter of Naomi Osaka has entered the court after the tennis star withdrew from the French Open and sparked a public conversation about athletes' mental health.

On Wednesday, Calm — the company behind the popular meditation and mindfulness app — announced that they will pay the fine for any player who plans on opting out of media appearances for mental health reasons during the 2021 Grand Slam.

The company will also match the fine with a $15,000 donation to French youth sports charity Laureus.

In addition, Calm is donating $15,000 to the organization in support of "Osaka's decision to prioritize her mental health," the company announced on Twitter.

Professional athletes across many sports are typically required to do post-match press conferences, or they face hefty fines.

Osaka, 23, announced before the start of the French Open late last month that she would not be doing any press to preserve her own mental health, noting that that her decision was "nothing personal" toward the tournament or any journalists.

The athlete withdrew from the French Open altogether after she was fined $15,000 for refusing to participate in post-match interviews, saying that her exit would be "the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being."

"The truth is that I have suffered from long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that," she shared in a message on social media. "Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world's media. I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka. Chris Hyde/Getty

In her statement, Osaka said she was feeling both vulnerable and anxious while in Paris for the French Open, so she thought the decision to skip press conferences was best for her "self-care." The tennis star also said that she still does feel that the rules regarding Grand Slam tournaments are "outdated."

"I'm gonna take some time away from he court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to discuss ways we can make things better for the players, press and fans," she wrote.

On Tuesday, officials from the French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open pledged to help create a healthier environment for players' mental wellness off the court.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka. Julian Finney/Getty Image

"On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court. She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate," their statement read. "We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathize with the unique pressures tennis players may face."

"Together as a community we will continue to improve the player experience at our tournaments, including as it relates to media," the statement continued. "We intend to work alongside the players, the tours, the media and the broader tennis community to create meaningful improvements. As Grand Slams, we aim to create the stage for the players to achieve the highest accolades in our sport."

If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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