“They Helped Build and Grow Our Sport” – Billie Jean King Weighs In on Press Boycott by Naomi Osaka at French Open 2021

Published 05/29/2021, 8:39 AM EDT
Tennis -WTA Premier 5 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 12, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during her second road match against Jessica Pegula of U.S. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Tennis legend Billie Jean King has now weighed in on the controversy over Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka deciding not to attend any press conferences during the French Open.


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While not being overly critical of the Japanese star, who announced her decision citing the need to preserve mental sanity instead of being grilled by reporters in moments she is down, King said players do have a responsibility to make themselves available to the media.

Players need to tell their truth: Billie Jean King on the Naomi Osaka press boycott


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King, however, said she respects how the current World No.2 has leveraged her status as one of the top stars in women’s tennis, adding that “everyone has the right to speak their truth.”

“I fully admire and respect what Naomi is doing with her platform, so I’m a little torn as I try to learn from both sides of this situation,” King said.

She said the media has played a critical role in making the sport what it is today, adding that in her playing days, nobody would have known what she and other stars of her time were thinking had it not been for the press.

“I have always believed that as professional athletes we have a responsibility to make ourselves available to the media. In our day, without the press, nobody would have known who we are or what we thought. There is no question they helped build and grow our sport to what it is today,” the 12-time Grand Slam champion said.

Mar 29, 2021; Miami, Florida, USA; Naomi Osaka of Japan hits a backhand against Elise Mertens of Belgium (not pictured) in the fourth round in the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

She added that while she acknowledges the presence of social media and the way it enables players to stay connected with their followers and put their thoughts and feelings out there within a blink of an eye, the press still has an “important role” to play in the sport, especially in the way it brings players closer to their fans.

Both players and press should respect their boundaries: King on the Osaka row

“I acknowledge things are very different now with social media and everyone having an immediate ability to speak their truth. The media still plays an important role in telling our story,” King said.

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However, she added that there are red lines or boundaries that the media needs to respect and as long as both players and the press stay within their limits, all will be well.


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“There is no question that the media needs to respect certain boundaries. But at the end of the day it is important we respect each other and we are in this together,” the stalwart said.

French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moterron has voiced his displeasure over Osaka’s announcement, calling it “regrettable.”


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Priyabrata Chowdhury

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Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.