Will Smith isn’t mincing words. On June 3, the actor posted a message of support addressed to tennis pro Naomi Osaka after she withdrew from the French Open citing mental health concerns.
Smith posted two photos featuring written message in black marker on white paper. The pages read, “Hey Naomi, You are right. They are wrong! I am with you.” He closed the simple statement with a heart and his signature, tagging Osaka and the French Open Instagram account in his post.
Osaka announced on May 31 that she would withdraw from the French Open, citing her mental health. Prior to withdrawing, the 23-year-old tennis pro announced she would not participate in press for the tournament due to mental health concerns. As a result, she accrued a $15,000 for not talking to the media, according to a Roland-Garros statement.
“I think now 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,” Osaka said in her May 31 statement. “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. The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”
Referencing the mandate to speak to press or risk a fine, Osaka continued, “I do feel like the rules are quite outdated in parts and I wanted to highlight that… I’m gonna take some time away from the court now, but when the time is right I really want to work with the Tour to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.”
In the aftermath of her announcement, Osaka received a wave of support, including backing from Nike, Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and more. Several news outlets and players have since credited Osaka with starting an important conversation about mental health in professional sports.
Yet the tennis industry in general seemed a little less understanding of Osaka’s stance— hence Smith’s reference to the industry being “wrong.” Not only did Osaka receive a fine for refusing to speak to the press, but according to CNN, after Osaka withdrew from the French Open, the tournament was criticized tweeting a since-deleted photo of players Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff “engaging in media duties” with the caption: “They understood the assignment.”
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