This is absolutely ridiculous.
How ironic that during Women’s History Month a female fan attending Naomi Osaka’s match against Veronika Kudermetova at Indian Wells had the nerve to yell out “Naomi YOU SUCK!” towards the mental health advocate.
Not only did Osaka have to deal with losing her match but she was also brought to tears after a heckler threw insults towards the four-time Grand Slam champion. Moments after Osaka approached the umpire chair to ask her to address the audience.
“Can I borrow your microphone?” Osaka asked. “I just want to say something. I’m not going to curse. I don’t curse. It’s just weighing on my heart.”
Her request wasn’t granted and tournament officials determined they’d find and eject the heckler if the match was interrupted a second time. The heckler was kept at bay as Osaka finished the match.
She dropped the first set 6-0 to Kudermetova and went on to lose the next set 6-4, ending her run in the Round of 64 at the California-based tournament.
After the match Osaka was granted access to speak to the audience of the match and tried her best to address the comment.
“I feel like I’ve cried enough on camera,” Osaka said to the crowd. “I’ve gotten heckled before. It really didn’t bother me. But heckled here, I watched a video of Venus and Serena getting heckled here, and if you’ve never watched it, you should watch it. I don’t know why, but it went to my head.”
Osaka referred to Serena and Venus’s dreadful match back in 2001 where Serena was booed after winning the tournament. Serena was supposed to play her sister, Venus, but she withdrew because of an injury. Unfortunately, fans thought the injury was fake and were cruel towards the young women. Serena was so upset she decided to boycott the tournament and didn’t play again for 15 years.
For years people have tried to dismiss black trauma and in that moment when Osaka was heckled it triggered an emotion that she felt as a little black girl YEARS ago. For this toxic behavior and culture to still exist and get taken lightly is sad and disappointing. Sure she could’ve tuned it out, sucked it up and hid her emotions but why?
It’s no secret that Osaka is an advocate for mental health and has stated over and over again that ‘It’s O.K. Not to Be O.K.’ Last summer the she withdrew from the French Open to tend to her mental health. Although she was the highest-paid female athlete in the world at the time she was and still is human and all athletes have the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on any occasion without being subject to strict sanctions.
The famous quote “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman” from Malcom X continues to hold true as users online find excuses for why Osaka should deal with the insults.
One user commented saying, “She needs to get some help as it was only 1 person. Imagine what will happen if it’s the whole crowd.”
While another compared her situation to NBA and NFL players. “Basketball players deal with that every game. Magic played in Boston hitting big shots. Baseball batters on the road in the 9th inning? WR’s are dealing with hostile crowds, uber-athletic DB’s…and bad weather. Love Naomi. Really do. But WTF.”
Others jumped in to defend the tennis superstar and added relative arguments for why these playing environments are not the same.
Our hearts go out to Naomi Osaka and hope she bounces back from this incident soon.