Naomi Osaka has received tons of support for her decision to prioritize her mental health and withdraw from this year’s French Open, despite the fact she was fined $15,000 for refusing to perform required media obligations and threatened with potentially stiffer penalties. Calm, the meditation app endorsed by other athletes like LeBron James and Michael Phelps, is now throwing its weight behind Osaka by donating $15,000 to the French chapter of the charity Laureus Sport for Good in the tennis star’s name.
However, Calm is going one step further; the San Francisco, CA-based company announced it will also pay the fines incurred by other Grand Slam circuit players who decline the media in order to protect their mental health. Lastly, each fine will be equally matched by a $15,000 donation to Laureus as well. “[T]his is bigger than any individual player,” Calm posted on social media. “#MentalHealthIsHealth 🧠.”
As one of Laureus’ biggest celebrity patrons and its 2021 Sportswoman of the Year, Osaka has been lauded for her work with children in her father’s home country of Haiti and her current hometown of Los Angeles, CA.
The French Tennis Federation’s handling of Osaka’s self-imposed exit from Roland-Garros under these circumstances has drawn criticism upon the FFT and other governing Grand Slam bodies. The episode has opened up a larger conversation around athletes’ mental health and the stresses of professional sports life as well.
Fellow tennis player Coco Gauff tweeted to Osaka, “I admire your vulnerability” and told the 2x US Open champ to “stay strong.” Retired tennis legend Martina Navratilova felt that “[Osaka] inadvertently made [things] worse” with how she left the French Open. But Navratilova expressed her sympathy for Osaka, too: “I am so sad about Naomi Osaka…This is about more than doing or not doing a press conference. Good luck Naomi- we are all pulling for you!”
There is one major name from beyond the tennis world who recently used his platform to back Osaka, though. Will Smith shared his unabashed defense of her by going to IG with a post sans caption. Instead, the Fresh Prince used large handwriting to write his message in the blank page of a book and uploaded photos of that page. “You are right,” read his public note of support to the 23-year-old tennis champ. “They are wrong! I am with you.”