Some Thoughts on Naomi Osaka and Press Conferences

[Editor’s Note: I wrote this piece on Monday night and planned to run it on Tuesday, but Kevin Pillar had other ideas. A day later, a few jillion writers have now chimed in on this topic, so I understand if you’ve already had your fill, but the issues still seem worth discussing here. — PL]

As you probably know by now, Naomi Osaka, one of the world’s best tennis players, withdrew from the French Open on Monday. That was the culmination of an unusual sequence of events that began when she announced prior to the tournament that she wouldn’t be doing the usual press conferences after her matches, citing mental stress and self-care. When she was true to her word and skipped the presser after her first-round victory, she was fined $15,000 and threatened with being bounced from the Open and the other three Grand Slam tournaments. Rather than escalate the conflict, she opted on Monday to exit the Open, explaining that she’s going through a rough phase and finds media sessions difficult because she suffers from depression and anxiety.

Media availability and post-match pressers are a contractually mandated part of the job for players like Osaka. If she wasn’t capable of doing her job, for whatever reason, then it’s probably best for everyone — as she herself said — that she stepped aside.

But should those things be part of her job? That’s what I’d like to talk about today.

I should start by saying that I would probably be a lousy team beat reporter, because I’ve always been a bit uneasy about being in a team’s clubhouse — not because I’m starstruck by the players or anything like that, but just because I think it’s really strange to be interrogating people at their workplace. I know, I know — they’re entertainers, they get paid big bucks, it comes with the territory, blah-blah-blah. But most other entertainers don’t have reporters walking around their dressing rooms, and they also don’t have to answer a barrage of questions after every performance. We’re so used to the sports world working this way that it’s easy to forget how weird it is.

That said, of course I recognize the value of reporters asking athletes questions. Reporters serve as the fans’ eyes and ears, asking questions and pursuing storylines that enhance our appreciation and understanding of the game. Without that, all we’d get are the narratives put out in press releases.

Or at least that’s the idea. In practice, many sportswriters already accept the narratives that teams and players feed to them (or at least use those narratives as the starting point for their reporting), others just lob softball questions designed to elicit predictable responses, and even challenging questions often become moot because athletes long ago mastered the art of stringing together clichés to form well-crafted non-answers. I mean, seriously, when was the last time you learned anything meaningful from an athlete at a postgame presser? At best, it usually feels like loosely scripted theater where everyone already knows how the plot will turn out; at worst, a complete waste of time (especially since today’s athletes often save their more meaningful statements for their own social media channels and sometimes even feed fake storylines to the press). Meanwhile, the presser backdrop shows a bunch of advertisers’ logos and the athletes are told which beverage bottle logos can and can’t be displayed, which increasingly feels like the point of the entire exercise.

In light of all that, and also in light of the mental health issues that Osaka cited, I found her stance was refreshing. Admittedly, though, I like her as an athlete, so I was probably predisposed to respond favorably to her position. As a thought experiment, I tried to imagine how I would have responded if a player I disliked had made the same announcement about skipping media sessions. Granted, it no longer felt quite as refreshing or admirable, but it still felt like no great loss to journalism.

Now, it’s true that media sessions lead to exposure and articles that help promote and grow the sport, all of which puts more money in Osaka’s pocket. But I wonder if she, and many other athletes, would trade some of that income in return for a less demanding life. As a comparison, I know that most MLB players hate playing on Sunday night, because Sunday is almost always a getaway day and they’d rather not take a red-eye flight. The ESPN Sunday-night TV contract is very lucrative for MLB, and the players share in that revenue, but would they give up some of that loot in return for guaranteed Sunday day games? I wonder. (Of course, the owners have no incentive to offer that trade-off, because Sunday-night games only complicate the players’ lives, not the owners’ lives.)

Another reason this all hits home with me is that we’re just now emerging from the pandemic, an experience that has led many of us to re-evaluate our priorities, take stock of what does and doesn’t matter in our lives, and so on. I’m not sure if that’s what led Osaka to prioritize self-care over post-match pressers, but her stance resonated more strongly with me in 2021 than it probably would have if she had done this in, say, 2019. I’ve been examining some of my own priorities and reminding myself that what’s best for Uni Watch isn’t always what’s best for my well-being — or for my relationship with the Tugboat Captain. For example, after years of saying yes to almost every radio, TV, or podcast interview request that came my way, lately I’ve been much choosier about them, plus I’ve scaled back the podcast schedule and am generally trying to establish more of a work/life balance. (The fact that I’m writing this sentence at 11:22pm on Monday night means I still have a ways to go in that regard, but I felt strongly about wanting to write this essay, in part to help work out some of these issues in my own head.)

It’s easy to cast Osaka as a spoiled malcontent in this storyline. We’ve all heard people say (or maybe said ourselves), “Stop complaining — you get paid millions of dollars to play a game!” True enough, but being a top-level athlete sure looks difficult from my vantage point. I’ve often wondered how many potentially great players there are who never make it to the big time because they possess the physical skills but can’t handle the travel, or the press, or playing in a different country with a different language, or playing in front of big crowds, or the homesickness, or the toll on their families, or the toll on their mental and emotional health, or whatever. Most of those athletes get weeded out in their teens or early 20s, so we never hear about them.

I’m not saying Osaka was definitely in the right. But I’m definitely saying that she’s raised some interesting issues that are worth thinking about. And if this all leads to a reconsideration of the boilerplate postgame/post-match press conference, that can’t possibly be a bad thing.

I realize this piece didn’t have much to do with aesthetics (well, aside from the ad-plastered backdrops). Thanks for your indulgence, and for listening.

(Footnote: In a very strange coincidence, another top player, Petra Kvitova, withdrew from the French Open yesterday. Why? Because she injured her ankle during a post-match media session. Go figure.)

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Click to enlarge

Over the rainbow: With June designated as Pride Month, the Giants announced yesterday that they’ll wear a rainbow-striped version of their “SF” logo on their cap and right jersey sleeve for this Saturday’s game against the Cubs.

This will mark the first time that an MLB team has worn LGBTQ+ symbolism in a game (as opposed to during pregame activities), but it’s consistent with the Giants’ long tradition of community outreach and inclusion. The team has supported AIDS research by wearing a red ribbon for “Until There’s a Cure Day” for nearly 30 years now.

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Elks Club: The Edmonton CFL team formerly known as the Eskimos yesterday announced that they will henceforth be known as the Edmonton Elks.

The team’s new logo set is shown above. I really like the minimalism of the primary mark (and also the color scheme, natch, although that’s a carryover from the team’s previous identity), although it’s a bit weird how the elk appears to be balancing something on its head.

Here are some shots of the new helmet (click to enlarge):

In theory, I like the idea of using the elk antlers. In practice, though, this treatment seems a bit spare and spindly, not majestic like a real elk’s antlers. I’m surprised they didn’t create a horn design that occupied a bit more of the helmet. Having the antlers emerging from a spot more to the front of the helmet shell, instead of the side, would also help.

But hey, I don’t actually watch CFL games, so what do I know. I’m just glad that they changed the team name.

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Click to enlarge

June pin reminder: In case you missed it on Tuesday, our June pin is now available. With the NBA playoffs in full swing, we’ve decided to go with a basketball theme this month. Our “Official Uni Watch Basketball” pin — similar to the baseball pin that we did in April of last year — comes with my signature and is also the first pin we’ve ever done that doesn’t include green!

This pin is available in a numbered edition of 200. After the first day of sales, there are fewer than 100 remaining. You can order yours here while supplies last. My thanks, as always, for your consideration of our products.

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We interrupt this blog for something completely awesome: The image above shows the angle at which an iceberg of a certain shape would probably float. I drew the iceberg myself on an absolutely brilliant (and brilliantly simple) interactive site called Iceberger. Go there right now, draw yourself an iceberg, and watch what happens — it’s soooo good! Then draw another iceberg shape. Then draw one shaped like a dog, or a star, or a crescent, or a random squiggly shape, or whatever. Then draw one entirely in the sky, not in the water, and see what happens.

Hell, you can even draw a winged stirrup:

Draw whatever you like. Guaranteed to ruin your productivity for the rest of the day (well, except your iceberg-drawing productivity). You’ll thank me afterward — trust me.

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The Ticker
By Lloyd Alaban

Baseball News: MLB has designated today as Lou Gehrig Day. All players will wear this patch to raise awareness of ALS. Teams that are off today will wear the patch tomorrow. … This article about the history of Black baseball teams in Charlotte, N.C., is worth reading not only because of the excellent writing and compelling subject matter but also for the fantastic vintage uniform photos (from Kary Klismet). … Here’s how Nike and the Marlins pulled off their wildly successful alternate jersey (from Dan Gitlitz). … Twins OF Rob Refsnyder crashed into the outfield wall at Camden Yards on Monday, so the Orioles’ grounds crew created a “chalk” outline of the point of impact (from multiple readers). … Here’s a great jersey-based infographic for the College World Series (from multiple readers). … Mets P Marcus Stroman is upset with D-backs broadcaster Bob Brenly over an on-air remark that Brenly made about Stroman’s do-rag, which he wears under his cap.

Football News: Cardinals LB Isaiah Simmons has switched from No. 48 to No. 9 (from our own Brinke Guthrie). … Here’s why Taylor Field, former home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, had different-colored seat sections (from Wade Heidt). … The NFL, which is expanding its schedule from 16 to 17 games this season, could go up to 18 games by 2025.

Hockey News: The Peoria Rivermen of the Southern Professional Hockey League are bringing back their old mascot, “The Captain,” as both a logo and in costumed form (from Kary Klismet).
 

Basketball News: The University of Utah has some USA Basketball-inspired shirts (from Markam Hyde).
 

Soccer News: New shirts for Real Madrid (from multiple readers). … New shirts for Brazilian side Fortaleza (from Trevor Williams). … Also from Trevor: New third kit for Brazilian side Goias. … Here’s a rundown of all the national teams’ kits for the upcoming Euro 2020 tournament (from Kary Klismet). … New badge for Hemel Hempstead Town. Their nickname is the Tudors, hence Henry VIII is shown in their badge (from James Welham). … Etihad Airways released a Manchester City ad that said they won the Champions League—something they didn’t actually do over the weekend (from multiple readers).

Olympics News: Here’s a look at the suits Great Britain will wear at the Olympics (from our own Phil Hecken).
 

Grab Bag: New uniforms for Samoa’s national rugby union team (from German Cabrejo). … Virginia has revealed its men’s lacrosse national championship logo (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … New name and logo for the professional lacrosse players’ union (from Michael Sullivan). … At the 54:40 mark of this podcast episode, ESPN’s Zach Lowe and guest Dave McMenamin have a short debate on naming arenas after corporations, teams, or other options (from KC Kless). … The Canadian Coast Guard is moving toward gender-neutral labeling for its uniforms (from Kary Klismet). … Miller Light and New Balance are releasing a shoe koozie (from @MeanJoeFranco).

94 comments to Some Thoughts on Naomi Osaka and Press Conferences

  • Kevin Kurz | June 2, 2021 at 8:40 am |

    As a Hokie alum, it pains me to type this – In the Grab bag, it’s Virginia’s lacrosse championship logo, not Virginia Tech’s.

  • RJ Nordlund | June 2, 2021 at 8:42 am |

    Haha, didn’t they know that the plural of elk is just elk?

    • Marcus from Baltimore | June 2, 2021 at 8:58 am |

      Check this out!

      “As for grammar rules, Elk is already plural without the need for an S. But if marketing has any say, look no further than the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose brand doesn’t seem to suffer from improper pluralization, sitting second only to the New York Rangers in NHL club value. (Insert joke here in regard to the on-ice product for the NHL club that lost Game 7 of its opening playoff round to the rival Montreal Canadiens one night earlier).

      And Presson would like to throw a challenge flag at the notion there is anything inherently wrong with Elk-with-an-S in the first place.

      “We checked with the Oxford Dictionary folks, we also checked with a linguistics expert at the U of A (University of Alberta) and it is proper, especially in a team name it’s more than acceptable,” he said. “And it’s considered a proper noun, so we chose it for a lot of reasons. We liked how it sounded. Frankly, it’s more inclusive than the word Elk.

      “Elks, plural, certainly isn’t you or me, it’s us, and I think the inclusion of the plurality around it was a key mechanism for us.””

    • Marcus from Baltimore | June 2, 2021 at 9:00 am |

      Check this out!

      https://edmontonsun.com/sports/football/cfl/ee-football/edmonton-elks-new-name-for-cfl-team

      “As for grammar rules, Elk is already plural without the need for an S. But if marketing has any say, look no further than the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose brand doesn’t seem to suffer from improper pluralization, sitting second only to the New York Rangers in NHL club value. (Insert joke here in regard to the on-ice product for the NHL club that lost Game 7 of its opening playoff round to the rival Montreal Canadiens one night earlier).

      And Presson would like to throw a challenge flag at the notion there is anything inherently wrong with Elk-with-an-S in the first place.

      “We checked with the Oxford Dictionary folks, we also checked with a linguistics expert at the U of A (University of Alberta) and it is proper, especially in a team name it’s more than acceptable,” he said. “And it’s considered a proper noun, so we chose it for a lot of reasons. We liked how it sounded. Frankly, it’s more inclusive than the word Elk.

      “Elks, plural, certainly isn’t you or me, it’s us, and I think the inclusion of the plurality around it was a key mechanism for us.””

    • Tubesox | June 2, 2021 at 9:16 am |

      elk[ elk ]
      noun, plural elks, (especially collectively) elk for 1, 2.

      (initial capital letter) a member of a fraternal organization (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks ) that supports or contributes to various charitable causes.

    • Matt | June 2, 2021 at 10:11 am |

      Both elk and elks are accepted

  • Oakville Celery Root | June 2, 2021 at 8:45 am |

    Taylor Field is the former home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders

    • Paul Lukas | June 2, 2021 at 8:51 am |

      “former” now added.

  • Shaftman | June 2, 2021 at 8:48 am |

    Paul, I’m glad you addressed Osaka and the current situation with her. Mainly because it forced me to actually think about my reaction which was instinctively, ‘Good for her. Mental health is no joke and she should do what’s best for hers’. And I don’t know if I would have said that many moons ago.

    In fact, I remember not taking Ricky Williams bouts with social anxiety very seriously and thought of him as only a ‘druggie’ (my thoughts on marijuana have also evolved since then).

    It’s important that we examine why we think the way we think or do what we do from time to time and understand that ‘This is the way it’s always been’ is not a reason to keep doing it. It’s time to abolish the requirement on talking to the media and let the on field/court achievements speak for themselves.

    • kevin | June 2, 2021 at 10:02 am |

      I wish the comments section had a like button.

    • Paul Lee | June 2, 2021 at 10:03 am |

      Exactly. Mental health is as important as physical health. Stress kills. Many people commit suicide from both physical pain but also from mental trauma or other psychological issues, e.g. depression. Avicii comes to mind. Several rockers, too.

      It is ironic that another player pulled out due to an injury that happened at the media session.

    • Mark in Shiga | June 2, 2021 at 10:23 am |

      I totally support Naomi Osaka.

      Athletes are paid to play their sports, not talk to the media. Some people like talking to reporters (Keith Hernandez comes to mind); others don’t. There is no shortage of people to get opinions from; if the main athlete doesn’t want to talk, go to a coach or an official or just write your own analysis.

      Naomi in particular has a tough time, because being tri-cultural (Japanese/Haitian/American) but having to represent one of the cultures whose language she doesn’t speak well, she’s totally dependent on the indulgence of the Japanese reporters asking her puffball questions and tolerating her (one must admit) less-than-perfect pronunciation and vocabulary. The Japanese media could be *really* tough on her if they wanted, particularly if she stops winning.

      Why can’t she hire a spokesperson to do her media relations for her? Why do the tennis tournaments demand that athletes also have media-relations skills on top of their tennis skills?

  • Ian Lee | June 2, 2021 at 8:48 am |

    That appears to be a lacrosse championship logo for the University of Virginia, not VA Tech ;)

    • Paul Lukas | June 2, 2021 at 8:51 am |

      Right. Already fixed.

  • Marcus in Baltimore | June 2, 2021 at 8:53 am |

    Naomi’s decision to not participate in the press conference reminded me that Marshawn Lynch brought light to the mandated pressers in an interesting way. I don’t think we really understand the amount of mental focus and emotional control it takes to perform at the highest level. Remember Allen Iverson?? His “Practice! response to an interviewer’s question was more in response to the fact that someone very close to him had recently passed away.

    So while the league looks to capitalize on every aspect of the game, both on-court and off-court, by having the postgame interview sponsored by XYZ company and mandating athletes to be interviewed win, lose, or draw, what is the cost to the athlete?

  • RS Rogers | June 2, 2021 at 8:56 am |

    I forgive all demerits in the new Elks logo on the grounds that Edmonton has increased the number of skeuomorphic helmets in professional football, and that is a sufficiently good thing to outweigh any negatives.

    The Osaka story left me with dissonance yesterday when I learned of it. The story was told in the same radio news program as an interview with an IOC member who defended holding the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo even without spectators in attendance because competition among the athletes is the only thing that really matters in sports. Unless, apparently, the athlete is a woman, or not white, or experiencing a non-physical injury? Then competition is secondary to her primary job of selling stuff? Hard to figure how to relate the two stories to each other. And the idea of forcing a person to perform despite an injury is repellant. If Osaka had broken her right index finger, she could probably still play tennis, but she would be unable to sign autographs without harming her recovery from the injury. Imagine if tournament organizers declared that she could not compete in the tournament unless she also signed a quota of autographs every day. Nobody would defend that requirement as a reasonable or humane or, frankly, moral thing to require of an athlete. Yet many do defend exactly such a requirement when the injury is mental rather than physical.

    • jahr | June 2, 2021 at 10:32 am |

      “Skeuomorphic” — Thank you for teaching me a new word.

  • Wade Heidt | June 2, 2021 at 9:15 am |

    Also a couple of new secondary logos for the Edmonton Elks.

    There are the antlers placed to look like a football. As well, the Double E logo remains as a secondary but has been updated. The new design is a hybrid between the old Double E logo design used 1960s to 1995 and the newer one from 1996 to present.

    https://3downnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Edmonton-Elks-1.jpg

    As well, the antlers on the helmet form an E at the top. Similar idea to how the Falcons’ logo forms an F.

    • Paul Lukas | June 2, 2021 at 9:17 am |

      Thanks, Wade — I hadn’t seen those. Swapping that in as the new header image for that section.

  • Jim Howicz | June 2, 2021 at 9:16 am |

    The thing that bothers me about the Osaka situation is the huge blindspot some members of the media have regarding their own self-interest. I appreciate that you actually took the time to examine this issue from the other side. Predicably, there were a lot of “it’s part of her job” and “she makes a lot of money so too bad” takes right after she announced this. Then there were a smaller, but still pretty loud, “care for Osaka but don’t blame the media” takes after she withdrew. I am not suggesting that it is improper to challenge her actions or reasoning, but at least speak to the “no access makes the media job harder and that’s why we are mad” angle here. I should not be surprised because there are a lot of lousy lazy reporters out there. The same is true for the tournament organizers.

    • John B. | June 2, 2021 at 11:38 am |

      I never understood why press shy players don’t simply make a presser a waste of time. A series of “no”, “yes”, “I don’t recall”, “that is an interesting question”, and so forth would eventually make the press ignore them or leave them alone.

      • gelasry64657@gmail.com | June 2, 2021 at 2:10 pm |

        More or less the answers my beloved Zack Greinke gives at press conferences ;)

      • Jim Howicz | June 2, 2021 at 8:56 pm |

        I not sure they would leave the player alone. I think there’s a chance that the story would be about how they are a bad person at that point.

  • Memal | June 2, 2021 at 9:20 am |

    Productivity definitely ruined, can’t wait to pass Iceberger along!

  • art | June 2, 2021 at 9:22 am |

    Athlete press conferences are a waste of time to begin with. These are people who have mastered the art of pretty much shutting their brains off and turning into reptiles during competitions. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to spend three hours locked into see-ball-hit-ball tunnel vision only to have five people in a row (who can all recall more about the game than I can) asking if I though maybe I wasn’t going to hit the ball that one time. There simply are no deep answers there.

  • Andrew | June 2, 2021 at 9:44 am |

    I appreciate the non-uni related essays you’ve written lately, both this one and the one about baseball’s unwritten rules. I get reminded that you’re a true journalist which can sometimes be forgotten when debating things like the color of a squatchee (though that’s also important). Keep up the mixture of asthetic minutiae + thoughtful current events articles.

    • Paul Lukas | June 2, 2021 at 9:46 am |

      Thanks, Andrew — much appreciated.

    • MJ | June 2, 2021 at 9:56 am |

      Second this. These have been well-written and thoughtful. Thanks.

  • MJ | June 2, 2021 at 9:56 am |

    I’m split on the Naomi Osaka thing. On one hand, the evolution of the athlete’s press conference has turned it into a farce and a performative dance. I don’t think anyone is benefiting beyond the reporters getting paid to be there. Athletes have giant platforms on social media and they can put out what they want, when they want. Press conferences are generally a waste of time. Social anxiety doesn’t make that easier, to be sure.
    But at the same time, there are parts of every job that are undesirable, annoying or frustrating. As a physician, my job has gotten harder every year – between electronic medical records, satisfaction scores and insurance companies finding creative ways to take money I earned out of my pocket, I spend more and more time doing things I don’t want to do just to maintain my practice and earn a living. I can’t just walk away from the things I need to do to maintain my boards certifications and state license because I don’t like doing them. To a degree, it goes with the territory.

    • Paul Lee | June 2, 2021 at 10:07 am |

      Don’t like doing them isn’t the same thing as not wanting to do dishes nor that they make sense. A single-payer system might or might not translate to less pay for the doctors, but will definitely lead to (hopefully) less paperwork amd less haggling with greedy insurance. And you’d save more money by needing fewer employees to handle billing.

      But yes, thank you for sharing. We all wish we could not go to work and be able to take a “me day” and not be risking our jobs/livelihood. Glad she could afford it; many cannot.

      • MJ | June 2, 2021 at 11:38 am |

        I agree with what you said. Private for-profit insurance is one of the banes of my existence to be sure, but it is more than that. Physicians spend less and less time actually practicing medicine. It has gotten very impersonal. Single-payor would help but so much more would need to happen.

  • kevin | June 2, 2021 at 10:05 am |

    If the Edmonton CFL team was just going to pick a new name starting with E, why did they scrap the previous EE logo? It works just as well for Elks as it did for the old name. (Although I do like the antler helmet.)

    • ChrisH | June 2, 2021 at 10:12 am |

      Personally, I liked the Evergreens option and think the Elk antlers aren’t well executed…but I agree that the prior logo was just fine and would have worked with any EE iteration they came up with.

    • DJ | June 2, 2021 at 11:25 am |

      Apparently, they kept the EE logo as a secondary logo.

  • Michael | June 2, 2021 at 10:06 am |

    Small correction in the Edmonton Elks section…you refer several times to their “horns.” Elk, like all members of the deer family (deer, elk, moose), have antlers, not horns. Horns and antlers are commonly confused but not interchangeable.

    • Paul Lukas | June 2, 2021 at 10:07 am |

      Duly noted (and fixed!).

  • Omar Jalife | June 2, 2021 at 10:08 am |

    Hopefully the media learns from this and next time Osaka is in a press conference she won’t be bombarded with mental health and anxiety questions.

    • Ted Mark | June 2, 2021 at 4:20 pm |

      That’s all they’ll want to talk about, and they’ll beat it to death until they’ve destroyed her.

  • Judy A | June 2, 2021 at 10:10 am |

    I think the Naomi Osaka/Roland Garros situation could’ve been handled better by both parties, but if the end result of all of this is an acceptance that post-match press conferences have outlived their usefulness, I wouldn’t really miss them. Well, I would miss gems like Bryce Harper’s famous response “That’s a clown question, bro” and pretty much anything Andy Roddick ever said in a presser.

    That said, here’s where I find a disconnect: This morning the Tennis Channel announcers were talking about Kei Nishikori – who, like Naomi Osaka, represents Japan. Nishikori’s level of celebrity in his home country is so overwhelming that he’s chosen to live in Florida to avoid the pressures of his fame. (Osaka also lives in the United States). The announcers went on to say that Nishikori is so famous in Japan that he’s even sold his naming rights – he is “Nissin Kei Nishikori.” Now, I understand that endorsement deals are lucrative and that athletes in individual sports rely on sponsorships, especially early in their careers. But I struggle to see how you can claim to want to be less famous at the same time that you’re selling your image and even your name.

    Osaka and Nishikori are both hugely successful tennis players who have struggled with their level of fame in their home country of Japan, and that may be the end of their similarities. But to your point about players who might be willing to trading some of their income to have less stressful lives, I wonder if cutting back on endorsements might be another effective tool in addition to opting out of pressers or skipping tournaments.

  • APMGTV | June 2, 2021 at 10:15 am |

    OK, the helmet is not great, but otherwise I LOVE the Edmonton rebrand. Great colors, great logo, great name. Helps that I just like elks in general, but this is so much better than what they could have messed up doing.

    • Jim Vilk | June 2, 2021 at 10:25 am |

      Agreed on all of this.

      Almost surprised they didn’t reverse the colours on the helmet, because now their rivals can derisively call them a bunch of greenhorns.

      And to agree with Paul, the antlers are lacking some oomph.

      I’ll take it, though. Now let’s just hope they’ll still be playing on a Canadian-sized field if they merge with the XFL.

    • Wade Heidt | June 2, 2021 at 11:29 am |

      Hopeful that the minimal black trim that has existed in their uniforms since 1996 will now be gone. There was black in the helmet striping and trimming the jersey numbers. Feeling it is may be the same uniform but hopefully with this change to the jersey numbers.

  • Jim Vilk | June 2, 2021 at 10:19 am |

    I’ve often told people, just think if you put in a full day of work at *your* job…whatever it is…and all of a sudden a reporter sticks a mic in *your* face as you’re going to clock out. Then, before you can go home, you have to sit in front of a bunch of mics talking to a bunch of people dissecting your workday. Good day, bad day, it doesn’t matter. I don’t think it would end well for most of us, including myself.

    From the time I was a kid until now, I mirrored the thoughts of Bill Simmons who wrote, “I just want to watch sports.” I never really cared about the interviews. The only reason I’d watch pregame or postgame shows was to see highlights. When I tape a game, as soon as I hear, “Let’s go down to the field with..” I press Stop. One of the reasons I got out of sportscasting is because I only wanted to do play-by-play. I hated sideline/postgame interviewing, but when I did it I made sure I asked something other than the standard mind-numbing “What was going through your mind on the play?” or “What kind of adjustments do you need to make?” It wasn’t that much more work to come up with different questions, but as someone else posted, reporters can be lazy. Even the good ones.

    And reporters are the only ones who “need” to know what the coaches or athletes have to say, because it’s part of their job. It bugs me when they claim “the fans need to know.” We don’t. Some of us may want to know, but none of us need this info. I’m happy with a basic game recap, then I’m ready to move on with the rest of my day.

    Well done, Naomi Osaka. If your actions lead to the eventual end of the cliche-fest known as the postgame press conference, you deserve a place in the Hall of Fame.

    • Jim Vilk | June 2, 2021 at 10:40 am |

      I just want to watch sports

      With good uniforms and cool looking fields, of course.

  • jesse. | June 2, 2021 at 10:23 am |

    Everyone has a different job. Part of hers is doing media, it just is. I’m sensitive to her issues, and supportive of her decision to step aside. It reminds me a bit of Ricky Williams actually. Fortunately for her she is in an individual sport, she doesn’t have to play in the French Open. She has the flexibility to adjust her work to the needs of her life outside her work. Good for her.

    • Paul Lukas | June 2, 2021 at 10:26 am |

      Everyone has a different job. Part of hers is doing media, it just is.

      Yes, but you’re ignoring the specific question I posed near the outset of this essay: *Should* it be part of her job?

      That’s the issue.

  • Doogie Stardust | June 2, 2021 at 10:23 am |

    Spent a very brief time on the beat of a NFL team for a radio station. I didn’t do day to day coverage but attended home games, post-game pressers and then to the locker room for more quotes. Not once did I come away with anything that was truly newsworthy or answers that didn’t sound like they came out of Bull Durham.

    In a team sport I understand making a few players available to the press but in a sport like tennis or golf if someone doesn’t want to do the interview they shouldn’t be forced to. If you win the event it’s in good form to answer a few questions but I always feel for the person that played their heart out, came up short and then has to answer the ridiculous “You worked so hard for this only to lose. Can you tell us how you’re feeling right now?”

  • Marty in the 'Hoga | June 2, 2021 at 10:30 am |

    Evidently, Osaka did not speak to the powers-who-be beforehand about making some kind of concessions for her. She just unilaterally announced that she would not comply with the rule. So I don’t blame the blindsided powers for getting their noses out of joint and digging in.

    Osaka showed no interest in working together to fashion a solution or compromise. She just said, My way or the highway. The highway it is.

    She handled this poorly. An unforced error.

    • Adam | June 2, 2021 at 11:17 am |

      From the report that I read in the NYT Marty is correct. Plus, after Osaka made her initial announcement the president (or major domo) of the Open was unable to contact her. The NYT also noted that if she were to be relieved of her presser duties, she would have a benefit not accorded to other athletes.

      I understand that this is just for this situation and the Uni piece was about should athletes have to attend pressers in general. It should be noted that this is the second Uni-Watch piece about norms recently – the other being about unwritten rules in baseball.

  • Matt | June 2, 2021 at 10:37 am |

    In looking at the new Peoria Captain logo, am I the only one who immediately sees Rob Riggle as your Party Boat Captain on The Office?

  • Brian E | June 2, 2021 at 10:39 am |

    I’ll speak for myself and say I have zero interest in postgame press conferences, specifically from players. The coaches? Maybe, just because I’m curious in their assessment of the game. And honestly, that really only pertains to some of the coaches of the teams I root for (for example, Barry Trotz is particularly insightful and great to listen to, but I couldn’t care less what Luis Rojas has to say about a game). Maybe that’s less of an indictment on Rojas than it speaks to the de-emphasis on the baseball manager, while a hockey coach is required to do more on-his-feet thinking with changes, and a team’s system can dictate *how* a team plays.

    Beat reporters are certainly valuable. They often develop a ton of sources that not only can help break a story, but they are also spoken to on background by players and executives alike, which in turn informs some of the copy they write. But I feel like the player postgame press conference virtually relegates the beat reporter to stenographer status. When compiling a gamer, a lot of writers are just looking for a quote of two from the player of interest to fill space. Frankly, it’s not even worth the effort.

    As the media landscape evolves, I would argue that the player postgame presser should become obsolete. At the very least, it should be optional.

  • Greg | June 2, 2021 at 10:44 am |

    RE: Pressers.
    I agree they are sort of a waste of time. Sure we all would like to know certain things, but in reality I don’t think our enjoyment of sports would be any less if we didn’t get post game/match commentary from athletes. And I agree it is rare we actually ever get any insightful responses out of them. Whether we are just talking about getting rid of immediate post game availability, or eliminating all required availability, it would not change my interest in watching the actual games. My guess is it has become so vital now because in the current climate 24/7 content is desired by media outlets, so if you don’t have games to show, you at least have some sort of live content to broadcast?
    If an athlete wants to talk right after a game, by all means, but I can definitely respect any athlete that needs time to process things before they make comments that will be broadcast and transcribed worldwide.
    In the case of Osaka, it seems like a non controversy to me, I don’t get the sense she is throwing a fit about anything, she simply doesn’t feel able to complete all of her contractually obligated duties, so rather than dealing with fines and all of that, she is just going to step aside. Nothing wrong with that at all.

    • MJ | June 2, 2021 at 5:37 pm |

      “…she simply doesn’t feel able to complete all of her contractually obligated duties…”

      But that is exactly the problem. It IS part of her job. It is not after she completes a full day of work, as Jimmer said above. It is part of the work, as much as practice is on a non-competetive day, or travel. Part of the arrangement for athletes is dealing with the working press, as much as placating sponsors and advertisers. Whether it should be is a different question; for now, it is.

  • Greg | June 2, 2021 at 10:47 am |

    RE: Elk(s)
    Something about the logo feels really old fashioned to me. Like it isn’t over designed, has almost an Atlanta Hawks pac man logo feel to me for some reason. I really like it. But I also agree that the antlers on the helmet are lacking, and could use more to them to fill out the helmet space. The minimal design of the antlers work on the logo, but not on the helmet. I can appreciate keeping the same design for both the logo and helmet for consistency, but also would have been fine if the helmet antlers were more elaborate than the simple design for the logo.

    • walter | June 2, 2021 at 11:51 am |

      A white outline would help.

  • TIm | June 2, 2021 at 10:52 am |

    Re Ms. Osaka’s story: I immediately thought of Bill Belichick; as much as I dislike him (don’t get me started), I’ve always gotten a kick out of how he handles those dopey post-game pressers. He loathes the whole idea and handles them as as such. Think about it: you’ve just experienced an entire game/match/contest yourself, and now you want to ask a bunch of (mostly stupid) questions about what we all just saw? Not to mention all the idiotic focus on how the competitors “feel”. Like, do you really need to ask that? Winner: happy, Loser: sad. Silly. In this case, the fact that she has other issues at play only makes the whole thing more silly. I agree with Brian E above: scrap ’em.

    • TIm | June 2, 2021 at 10:53 am |

      Oh, and the iceberg thing is really great. Thanks Paul!

  • Jasper | June 2, 2021 at 10:55 am |

    I suspect that press conferences and locker room interviews at one point had a lot more usefulness than they do today. It’s easy to forget that at one point there was no internet, no social media, no ESPN or other all-sports networks, few if any games were on TV, etc.

    So during that era, probably the only time sports fans could get any sort of information about games and players were from newspapers and magazines like Sports Illustrated. And to get the “human side” of sports for those stories, reporters probably depended 100% on having access to ask athletes questions. I suspect that athletes at that time were a little more candid with their answers not having to worry that any controversial thing they said would get them blasted on a national level by the 24/7 news media of today.

  • Greg Lamm | June 2, 2021 at 11:10 am |

    As someone who has been in a relationship with someone dealing with PTSD for over 10 years, I can tell you that mental health issues are not rational. They make no sense whatsoever. People with dealing with mental health issues are not trying to be difficult. They just want to be like everyone else but they often don’t have a choice.

    Maybe Naomi Osaka should not be a professional tennis player. Maybe she doesn’t even want to be but her talent drove her to be. If she decides to quit, I would not be surprised. I would also hope that she finds her true calling in something that brings her peace and happiness. Life is hard and we should all try to help each other get through it as best we can.

  • Andrew | June 2, 2021 at 11:17 am |

    I respect Osaka’s decision – she’s the one giving up the potential prize money, after all.

    But is it really that taxing, mentally, to sit at a podium and pretend to answer questions?

    Ask a fireman, a public defender, a 911 operator, etc., whether they are entitled to a job without stress.

    Sometimes stress comes with the territory. Unlike those professions, a pro tennis has the option to dodge media questions with cliches and pablum.

    If I was, say, a member of Osaka’s family, I’d be kinda ticked, honestly. Imagine giving up potential millions in prize money because you don’t want to sit on a chair and listen to questions.

  • Marty in the 'Hoga | June 2, 2021 at 11:27 am |

    I continually torture myself by listening to postgame interviews with Browns players on the radio. Invariably, the questions are so frickin’ idiotic I sometimes have to turn it off.

    “How do you cope with this tough loss and get ready for next week?” [My answer would be, Hey, this ain’t the Oprah and Dr. Phil show, it’s football. We’ll get over it.]

    “How important was it to have Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, and Denzel Ward back from injury?” [What do you think?]

    “How do you feel about the fact that the Browns haven’t won four straight games since 1989?” [Do you really think I spend one second of my day contemplating what happened here thirty years ago?]

    “How important was it that you were able to score first?” [Gee, I don’t know. What point of reference are you using? A scale of one to ten? One to a hundred? Define your terms.]

    “During preparations, did you focus on getting out to an early lead? [No, we focused on getting out to an early deficit.]

    “How do you build on this win going forward?” [What does that even mean?]

    “The Steelers come to town next week. How big a challenge will this be?” [For God’s sake, this game just ended fifteen minutes ago. Can we just stay in the moment for a moment?]

  • Skye McLeod | June 2, 2021 at 11:36 am |

    It looks like they beefed up the Elks’ helmet antler a bit between the still image from the video and the actual helmet that was presented. In the still image the antler doesn’t come close to the rear vent hole while on the helmet that was presented it partially covers it. I like the antler and I even like it’s simplified design but I agree that the helmet feels like it’s missing something.

  • Name Redacted | June 2, 2021 at 11:37 am |

    One of the reasons I’m a non-practicing sports journalist is disliking doing pressers and scrums, especially in the locker room.

    The other aspect of this may be unique to women’s tennis, where you have a media largely older and men and the athletes are younger and female, often minors. Not only do you have an unrelatability issue, you have the underlying and sometimes overt sexual nature of topics.

  • Judy A | June 2, 2021 at 11:44 am |

    By the way, IMO the single worst example of a post-event presser was during the Winter Olympics in Sochi when Christin Cooper continued to ask Bode Miller about his recently deceased brother even AFTER Miller was doubled over in tears. Press questions can be stupid or banal, but I’ve never seen anything quite so cruel and tone-deaf as that. If eliminating the post-event press conference meant nothing like that would ever happen again, I’d be more than okay with that.

  • walter | June 2, 2021 at 12:04 pm |

    I’m surprised more wasn’t made of San Darnold’s “seeing ghosts out there” debacle on Monday Night Football. Here was a young athlete, eager to please, struggling to put his best foot forward, mic-ed up to comply with a professional obligation. The whole team played badly, were outclassed, outplayed and outcoached by a juggernaut New England team. And the press has nothing better to do than cremate Darnold for his blunt and honest assessment of the circumstances on the field. He was a sacrificial lamb (not just on that night) but never less than a stand-up professional who deserved better. I’m still bitter about it.

  • Jaime | June 2, 2021 at 12:29 pm |

    When I saw Edmonton’s primary logo the first thing I thought of was the Grinch’s dog Max with a branch tied to his head. Now I can never I see it.

    • TIm | June 2, 2021 at 1:09 pm |

      Sonofabitch. Me neither (now). LOL! “He got on his sled, and he whistled for Max!”

  • hershky | June 2, 2021 at 12:59 pm |

    I can’t remember the last time I watched a post game press conference so I couldn’t care less if a player skips it.

    The real issue here is how we treat mental health. The standard thinking is that people should just tough it out when it comes to mental health issues. In 2012, Royce White was drafted in the 1st round by the Rockets and he took a stance that basically mental health should be treated like any other physical injury. If a player sprains an ankle, that player is not required to practice. Royce White wanted it in writing that if he’s having a mental health episode, that he should not be required to practice or play. He didn’t get it and that sunk his career.

    When an athlete is injured during competition, sometimes they come out for the post game presser, sometimes they don’t. But everyone is understanding if they miss it.

    It also depends what the mental health issue is for. If Brett Favre plays a game the day after losing his father or another player shows up to a post game presser after finding out his brother died, those players are celebrated for toughing it out. But we as a society don’t give that same understanding for anxiety, depression, shyness, etc.

  • Nate | June 2, 2021 at 1:01 pm |

    I’m being torn in a bunch of different directions with this Naomi Osaka press conference topic, so kudos for the thought provoking questions!

    – At the outset, I have to emphasize that Osaka should absolutely be doing what’s best for her mental health. Full stop.

    – It also needs to be said that these press conferences are, by and large, extremely lame. Athletes nowadays are coached by PR folks on how to say nothing of any value, so often we as viewers get nothing of value out of what they say. I imagine that this is a by-product of the endless Hot Take machine.

    Having addressed the two points above, I do think that media availability in some form SHOULD be considered as part of the job of being a professional athlete. What happens the field or court or whatever is only entertaining if we have some context as to who is performing that action.

    As a thought experiment, imagine a polar opposite world where the privacy of individual athletes is considered paramount. Naomi Osaka is referred to as only “American Tennis Athlete #534”, and to ensure her privacy, her identity is obscured during the match. Maybe they wear face masks or something. She competes in a tennis match against “Canadian Tennis Athlete #821”, whose identity is similarly obscured. Every tournament, the competitors are assigned new numbers, so there’s no tracking of the athletes involved.

    How entertaining would that be? At some point, we’ll probably lose interest in the sport. Who really cares who wins an athletic competition comprised of an arbitrary set of rules? There’s only so much value in what happens at the moment of competition. Who is involved in that competition is part of the rich narrative that makes the competition entertaining.

    Doofy press conferences are part of the whole narrative building process. Maybe a small part, granted, but a part nonetheless.

  • Joel Keller | June 2, 2021 at 1:11 pm |

    There’s a reason why Ichiro used an interpreter for his press conferences for his entire MLB career despite the fact that he spoke English well. It was a way for him to have a buffer between him and the press and a way for his answers to be as polished and meaningless as possible.

    Derek Jeter was the king of the non-answer answer, whether it was during a presser, a scrum at his locker, or even a 1-on-1 talk. It was one of the reasons why no scandals stuck to him over a 2 decade career. Even now, as an owner, he’s only a little more candid.

    As much as I’d like to say Osaka should just do the pressers as part of her job, they’re generally worthless.

  • Le Cracquere | June 2, 2021 at 1:12 pm |

    I don’t have any strong feelings about the Osaka incident, and those I have are pretty mixed. But I think this has become a big deal because it indirectly raises two huge questions:

    a) As Paul asks, how much of a real point is there to sports interviews at all?

    b) If the answer is “little to none,” what real point is there to most people now employed in sports journalism?

    Maybe I’m imagining things, but I detect a barely concealed agitation in all the Osaka coverage that doesn’t feel like a coincidence.

  • Tubesox | June 2, 2021 at 1:34 pm |

    I like how history has repeated itself in Edmonton. Almost 100 years ago (1922) The (then) Edmonton Eskimos rugby football club changed their name to the….Edmonton Elks!

  • Tubesox | June 2, 2021 at 1:36 pm |

    Fun Fact: Almost 100 years ago (1922) The (then) Edmonton Eskimos rugby football club changed their name to the….Edmonton Elks!

  • Dan Pfeifer | June 2, 2021 at 1:39 pm |

    I recognize this may end up being an unpopular opinion.

    I’m supportive of Osaka’s decision to take some time to sort things out for herself mentally and take care of herself. I don’t think anyone should fault her for choosing to take some time off, nor should we fault anyone for doing that when they’re going through a rough patch. I’m supportive of anyone who does what they do to better their own mental health.

    However, I’m not supportive of the idea the post-game interview is no longer essential, nor am I supportive of the idea that talking to the media is optional. I think it’s part of what you buy into when you decide to become a high-level professional athlete. If it’s not something you want to deal with, then I think that’s basically akin to saying you don’t want to be a high-level professional athlete.

    While sports media does play to a lot of pre-planned narratives at times, press conferences are still ultimately about the historical record and accountability, which are both essential. Both of those things are better served when we know more than just the result: Why an athlete took the strategy he or she did. What they were trying to accomplish, how they tried to accomplish it and why they feel they did or didn’t. Even whether or not the athlete felt the rules of the game were upheld fairly, if the atmosphere of the event impacted them, and so on are important to the narrative of sport — the human drama of athletic competition, and all those other things that used to be talked about in the Wide World of Sports intro.

    At the end of the day, the mental part of sport — the joy, the pain, the feelings, the strategy — makes it compelling. We don’t particularly care when two computers play chess; we do when two human beings match skills. And we don’t fully know the mental side unless we get to talk to the athletes. But having 50 million people individually talk to Tom Brady after the Super Bowl is impossible, so we have the media to do it for us and disseminate it. Ultimately, that’s what the media is supposed to do. I think good media members are ultimately very selfless. They’re there to represent the masses, not for their own gain, though if they represent the masses well and deliver the content people seek, they (theoretically) gain accordingly.

    Covering that mental part is why post-game recaps in news stories feature quotes. It’s why radio updates after games have sound bytes from athletes. Those usually come from post-game pressers. Those quotes highlight the human side. And yes, often times, humans act like computers and give boilerplate quotes. But even those confirm that yes, they were thinking what we thought they were thinking, which is important and shouldn’t be assumed. Taking that away seems like taking away what makes sports fascinating.

    A lot of folks are thinking about Osaka in this, but I don’t think a lot of folks are thinking about larger impacts of things beyond Osaka: How it would impact the coverage of sports if athletes could either choose not to be accessible, or only choose to deliver their message through their channels, like The Players’ Tribune or their own social media, where there’s not necessarily any accountability to answer questions about things they don’t want to talk about but are still important to the historical record of what happened. This has already happened to a large extent in certain political circles and the result has arguably threatened the fabric of our country. Sports isn’t nearly as important, but it still seems like a trend in the wrong direction.

    I fear allowing one athlete, for whatever reason, to get out of it could allow any athlete who doesn’t want to participate the means to get out of it. Accordingly, I see the post-game interview as more important than perhaps you outlined in this piece, Paul, and it comes from my perspective of someone who’s been in on my fair share of such press conferences as a member of the media. It becomes the athlete’s way of saying, “Watch me compete and go home. Don’t ask how or why I do what I do because I don’t want to tell you, and don’t question me if I do something wrong.” That doesn’t seem right.

    And while yes, being a pro athlete isn’t easy, being a journalist isn’t, either. You know this, Paul. Think about how frustrating it is when a league doesn’t want to talk about a leak, or threatens you with lack of access because you reported on one. Now imagine being in the shoes of a behind-the-scenes radio guy who knows his staff is going to want, nay expect, sound bytes from the top competing athletes, but they decide, “Eh, don’t feel like talking,” or, “I don’t like that question,” or just decide not to show up at all, when you really try hard to come up with the questions you think are both appropriate and what the fans want to know. This just makes life more difficult for journalists, and paints the media, which is taking some due but a lot more undue bruises right now, in a bad light that isn’t necessarily deserved, but further damages its credibility.

    Lastly, dealing with, and knowing, the fans, through the media, are paying attention and asking questions, to me, seems like part of the mental part of competition. And, for better or worse, competition is often as much about mental toughness as it is physical ability. I almost see it as a competitive advantage not to actually have to hear questions about things that might not have gone right in a previous game or match.

    While I’m empathetic to Osaka’s depression issues, depression can be a disability — and, for better or worse, sport is a test of ability. At some point, sport can only go so far to accommodate disability. We don’t let people in electric wheelchairs run the 100m dash. The mental part of the game is huge in tennis. The 30 for 30 on Jimmy Connors’ run in the 1991 U.S. Open went to great lengths to talk about how Connors engaged in lots of mental tricks to make his miraculous run at age 39, slowing down matches, annoying his opponent by going to the towel or asking for new balls or whatever. Tennis can truly be a mind game.

    If press conferences can impact your mentality, the mental part of the game is huge, but we make accommodations for one player to get out of the press conferences, how is that now a truly fair competition? Where should the accommodations stop? “She’s having a particularly down day mentally today; can we play the final tomorrow?” “She’s playing a Frenchwoman in the final and the French crowd will be against her, which gives her anxiety. Can we play in an empty stadium?”

    As I said at the start, this won’t be a popular opinion, but sport is a test of emotional toughness, too. I’m not sure how you accommodate an emotional disability and still have it be a test of that toughness. That doesn’t mean I’m not sympathetic to those with depression, as I deal with anxiety myself. But I’ve also learned there are certain things I just shouldn’t do because they don’t make me comfortable. And I don’t think you can separate dealing with the media from being a part of high-level sport. So if you can’t deal with that because of the emotional disability, then maybe being in high-level sport just isn’t the right thing for Osaka.

    One thing that has occurred to me through all of this is that, as we take mental health more seriously, perhaps accommodations can and should be made for people like Osaka in the Paralympics or Special Olympics: Forms of the sport that allow people to take part, but make accommodation for disability. Or maybe it’s just something like a real-life version of Sidd Finch: Someone with tremendous talent, but who just doesn’t want to deal with everything surrounding the circus of sports. But, for better or worse, the circus is part of the event. Heck, this whole site is dedicated to promoting a theoretically unnecessary externality of sport; you could put one team in all black and another team in all white and you could tell them apart, but we prefer it when things are more decorated and stylish. We like the circus. And yet, here we are questioning how necessary the circus is.

    Sorry, but I think the post-game presser needs to stay. And, harsh as this may sound, if someone can’t learn to somehow cope and handle it, then maybe that someone shouldn’t be in sport. Harsh, I know, but I feel like this is one where we have to put the many — the fans and media — ahead of the few — the singular athlete who’s struggling to deal with it.

    • hershky | June 2, 2021 at 2:05 pm |

      So if an athlete tears their ACL for example, would you require them to be at the post game presser because pain is part of the game and what they signed up for?

      • Dan Pfeifer | June 2, 2021 at 4:12 pm |

        At the post-game presser? Of course not. There’s a prioritization, and the athlete’s physical well-being is above the needs of the media and the fans. In the case of a catastrophic injury, presumably they would be taken to the hospital and treated.

        However, when back at practice, or back available in street clothes, or however it may be, assuming the injury doesn’t cause them to quit the sport and go into seclusion … yeah, they should have to talk to the media when able.

        It’s not necessarily a matter of timing. It’s a matter of choosing to simply not talk to the press at all or not. Most team sports have more than just post-game press conference availability; many also have availability after select practices and baseball usually lets the press talk to players before games.

        The situation I’m looking at here, and what I’m thinking Osaka is saying, is “I don’t want to talk to the press. Period.” That’s a lot different than “I can’t talk to the press right now, but I will later.”

        • hershky | June 2, 2021 at 4:37 pm |

          Phil Rivers tore his ACL in the 2008 playoffs against the Colts and spoke postgame before going to get a MRI that night.

          Nobody would have said anything against him if he went straight to the hospital but my point is that in this world: athlete’s physical well-being > needs of the media and fans > athlete’s mental well-being.

    • TIm | June 2, 2021 at 2:25 pm |

      Opinion noted, but… I disagree. The mental part of the actual game or contest is one thing, and certainly is part of competing at the highest level. Having to deal with the mental pressure of a press conference is entirely another. And, someone having trouble coping with a room full of reporters asking questions is not remotely related to the ability to cope with the mental pressure(s) faced during practice, training and/or the contest itself. Plus, there are all sorts of times in sports where the only press access is the coach or coaches, rather than the athletes, at least immediately after competing. I don’t see that as limiting anyone’s interest or taking much away from sport.

      • Dan Pfeifer | June 2, 2021 at 4:20 pm |

        While you make a valid point about the pressure of the press conference and the pressure of competing being separate, it’s still a life pressure that has to be faced. Competing is about the entirety of one’s life choices: How much one practices and trains away from the field, what one eats, whether one goes out and parties or not, etc., even things beyond control, like genetics. This is one where it’s part of the controlled environment of the event. It’s difficult for me to see the event validly saying there should be different rules for one player than another in that regard.

        And there’s still the matter of how the media is trying to tell the whole story of the event for the historical record, but without the press, the whole story is not being told. It literally takes away from the event.

        As for the press access often being only the coach or coaches, yes, that’s true for team sports, and often that’s “enough,” as a coach can commonly speak for his or her players. But in an individual sport, and one like tennis where the coach isn’t even allowed on court while the event is occurring, I don’t think “just the coach” cuts it. The player has to be the subject.

        Also, it’s not just one component of what I said above. It’s all the points adding up to “it should happen.” No one item singularly is the reason. It’s the fact that, when you take all of them together, even disagreeing with one reason still leaves a number of others.

    • Ted Mark | June 2, 2021 at 4:38 pm |

      Well, I disagree. Ms. Osaka is the victim here. She felt not talking to the press was imperative to her mental health. The powers that be thought that threatening her was an appropriate rebuttal. That’s disgusting.

      • Dan Pfeifer | June 2, 2021 at 10:25 pm |

        The FFT isn’t blameless here. They didn’t handle this well. There was a better way to handle this that could have shown more tact.

        What I said above doesn’t let them off the hook. It’s not necessarily a one-side-or-the-other thing. Sometimes, everyon’s doing it wrong.

        Yes, athletes should have to make themselves available to the media. But if there’s a personal situation that causes an athlete to feel uncomfortable performing their duties, then that should be handled with a certain understanding. That may not necessarily mean being totally accommodating, but it seems the FFT didn’t handle this perfectly.

        Furthermore, the FFT, when it announced their handling of the situation … also didn’t take questions from the media. Which both didn’t look good on their part and makes it difficult to know what’s going on, or what people are thinking both in the FFT & Osaka camp because no one’s answering questions. It becomes “he said, she said.” Good media helps solve that problem by serving as a neutral middle party that can get answers.

        In a roundabout way, this proves why we need to have people answering questions from the media.

  • Julie | June 2, 2021 at 2:25 pm |

    If men were treated the way a lot of women athletes are treated in post game pressers they would have been nixed a long time ago.

    “Hey Serena, you just won, why aren’t you smiling?”

    To Coco Gauff: “Your often compared to the Williams sisters, maybe its because you are black, but I guess its because you are talented and American too. We could have a final between you and Serena. Is it something you hope for? I mean 22 years separates you girls”

    Female athletes have to put up with so much shit from the media, trolls on social media, etc. I don’t blame Naomi one bit for trying to put a stop to it.

  • Milorad V | June 2, 2021 at 2:47 pm |

    “I’m just here so I don’t get fined…next question…”
    -the inimitable Marshawn Lynch

    The ‘mandatory’ presser is a BS relic. The crucible of ‘Mental Toughness’ shouldn’t extend to After the contest. Let those who want to sit it out, do so. Certainly, there are enough spotlight-seeking showboats in every sport to fill in the gap. Its largely pablum and codified, catch-phrase speech most of the time, anyway; or the weariest due diligence.
    Think of how worthless (informationally) the nightly pressers were during, say, Roger Maris’s quest for 61…but how throughly damaging they were to him personally.

  • Brett E | June 2, 2021 at 3:54 pm |

    AUPPL taking a page out of the White Sox book? Low-left, CWS poster.

  • StLMarty | June 2, 2021 at 5:46 pm |

    Yet another stellar, thoughtful essay from Paul “No Middle Initial” Lukas. The kind I share with loved ones and acquaintances.

    No time to sift through the already 60+ comments, but does anyone else think the Elk looks like Max posing as a reindeer in The Grinch?

  • Patrick in MI | June 2, 2021 at 7:02 pm |

    Without post-game press conferences we never would have had the epic Hal McRae meltdown. Or Jim Mora. “Playoffs?!”

  • Gabe Cornwall | June 2, 2021 at 7:38 pm |

    There is a lot of layers to peel with the Naomi Osaka dilemma.

    On one hand, she needs to do what is best for her, whether that’s taking time off, talking with someone or multiple people, figuring out a new approach or whatever. None of us can pretend to know exactly what she knows or feels.

    On the other hand, she tried to chalk up at least some of her issues to mental health, which can easily be construed – fair or otherwise – into an insult for those with real mental health issues. It also does not account for the fact, especially at that level, that it takes a lot of mental fortitude to defeat many opponents on the court. It’s also possible that at her young age, she has physically overwhelmed so many opponents with more height, strength, speed and better reach among other physical advantages that she hasn’t viewed anything on the court with any sort of mental viewpoint.

    In other words, it’s entirely possible that she doesn’t see any mental aspect or acknowledge any semblance of mental strain while drubbing another opponent in straight sets on the court … yet the thought of facing the media – and maybe one or two people in that press room who ask bad, crappy, unloaded questions – is terrifying.

    Additionally, the sponsors which pay her a lot of money – and those of us who read UW should know that many athletes at Osaka’s level would make millions even if they never won a match, game or tournament – count on her press obligations to get their return on investment. Listening to an announcer and its network slobber all over sponsors is tiring and nauseating, but they pay the bills and get networks, their employees, tournament committees and the tournament participants paid. See how many of them willingly take less when those sponsors go away. (Do sponsors frequently go too far? IMO, yes. But find a sweet spot because those sponsors aren’t just going to hand you money because they liked being solicited for thousands or even millions of dollars prior to the event.)

    Obviously, we don’t know what’s going on in her head and I hope she figures it out in due time. But I didn’t care for what Osaka said initially, which implied that the big, bad media was at fault. That was a blanket statement and implied that all media is mean, nasty and out to get everyone, which just is not true. Yes, there are bad writers and media members who ask terrible, loaded questions but not all tough questions are not loaded or unfair.

    (Full disclosure: Years of experience in sports media as a writer and editor.)

    • Neeko | June 2, 2021 at 9:33 pm |

      I’m surprised no one mentioned this earlier. Remember when the LPGA was having a fit bc they had so many winners that weren’t english speaking? Sponsors were not happy.

    • Dan Pfeifer | June 2, 2021 at 10:37 pm |

      As someone who has also been on the question-asking end of plenty of press conferences myself, part of my reaction to this, too, has been, “Really, is tennis media as bad as it’s being made to sound?”

      Granted, if the commenter above is right about some of the questions female athletes get asked, then maybe the answer is yes. But maybe then it’s time for the WTA to say to its athletes, “Listen, you don’t have to take any of that crud. Tell those reporters you won’t answer their question, and if they keep asking those kinds of questions, let us know and we’ll work on pulling their credentials.”

      However, I get the impression those kinds of reporters are few and far between. I think there are more reporters that, yes, are “good” reporters, but still ask questions about stuff athletes don’t want to think about because, well, that’s their job. “You only had four unforced errors off your backhand in the first three rounds and you had five today. What was the difference?” “Twelve service aces for your opponent. What made her serve so difficult?” “It seemed like you weren’t the same after that review didn’t go your way in the fourth set. Did you feel like that affected you?” And so on.

      I’ve been in front of lockers where cornerbacks have bristled at reporters who asked them legitimate, but difficult, questions about plays where they got burned. There’s one who’s now at ESPN who, when she asked such a question, he snapped back at her, “What did you see? What did you see on that that you want to know about?” I hopped in and answered with a play-by-play of what occurred. “Well, that’s what happened then.”

      We see it a lot in society nowadays: Some folks don’t want to be questioned. They don’t want to be accountable. They don’t want anyone to focus on what went wrong. The media’s job is to do those things: Question, hold accountable, ask about what went wrong. With social media, a subset of people think they can control the narrative and don’t understand why they can’t be allowed to do that. The media is there to make sure that doesn’t happen so that accountability can happen.

      It’s for all of these reasons that I still say media access *is* important. I don’t think there are many good excuses to absolve someone of that. It’s part of the responsibility of being an ahtlete — to the sport, to the fans, to everyone. If you can’t handle that part of it, then I think you probably shouldn’t be trying to be at that level of the sport.

  • JD | June 3, 2021 at 8:09 am |

    Love the Giants’ caps! If MLB were to go league-wide with that design for a weekend, I’d feel less icky about the GI Joe stuff.

  • B.J. Olejnik | June 3, 2021 at 10:03 am |

    If you want a bigger time waster, there’s a remixed version of the Iceberger out there that adds premade shapes and simulates melting:
    https://engaging-data.com/iceberger-remixed/

  • McBig | June 4, 2021 at 11:32 pm |

    Im conflicted on the Giants pride uniforms. I myself am bisexual and do appreciate when teams celebrate these type of things. My issue comes from actually wearing it during a game. Im pretty traditional with uniforms and really prefer teams just wear their regular stuff so I kinda wish they just kept it to pregame. Especially with how busy the rainbow looks on a logo.