Nike Stands by Naomi Osaka After French Open Exit: We 'Recognize Her Courage'
Naomi Osaka announced she wouldn't continue in the 2021 French Open on Monday in order to prioritize her mental health
Nike is standing behind Naomi Osaka.
The sportswear giant, which sponsors the tennis star, 23, reacted in a statement to Osaka's decision to withdraw from the 2021 French Open after being fined for not participating in post-match interviews during the Grand Slam tournament.
Nike told PEOPLE, "Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience."
Ahead of the tennis tournament's start, Osaka announced she wouldn't be doing press during the championship in an effort to preserve her mental health. On Sunday, Osaka picked up her first win and a $15,000 fine for not participating in media requirements.
In her Monday statement, Osaka said that she felt "the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris. I never wanted to be a distraction and I accept that my timing was not ideal and my message could have been clearer. More importantly, I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly."
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Osaka said that she has suffered from depression since 2018, and has had a "really hard time coping with that."
"Anyone that knows me knows I'm introverted, and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety," the world No. 2 tennis player said. "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."
Osaka told fans she was prioritizing self-care and would be taking time away from the court. Her statement was met with support by numerous other athletes, including fellow tennis star Serena Williams.
The athlete and Nike had just recently announced a new apparel signature collection ahead of the French Open. The brand had also made Osaka's planned outfit for the French Open available for purchase for the first time.
Nike's CEO John Donahoe recently wrote an op-ed for Yahoo! Finance about why the company is prioritizing mental health now more than ever.
Wrote Donahoe, "We strongly believe in expanding the definition of sport. We are committed to getting people active and attending to their health and wellness, no matter what form it takes."
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"We also know mental health has no offseason," he continued. "It isn't just about preparing for moments of urgent need — it's also about cultivating a healthy mind and body for everyday life. It's why at Nike, we've taken a number of steps to support our employees through enhanced access to diverse counselors, free wellness memberships, support for families (including paid parental & family leave, back-up care, childcare subsidies), and more. And as we continue to listen to our teammates' needs, we plan to further enhance our offerings later this year."
If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.