I am a person of many facets….well sport facets. If you have paying attention to tennis and the French Open, Naomi Osaka came out with the following statement before the tournament.
True to her word, she didn’t do any interviews after her first round win and was fined $15,000 by tournament organizers. Top members from each of the Grand Slam tournaments came together to write a statement about the situation here.
Naomi took the next step of withdrawing from the tournament and left the following statement on her Twitter.
Westy, what does this have to do with hockey and the Canucks? Well….lots actually. Canucks media and more so Canucks Twitter, is a toxic environment. With the invent of the internet and the ability of people like me and you to post our opinions for all to read and then comment on, has come the decline of common sense and sensitivity to the fact players…are, well regular people.
I will state right off the bat that I am not calling out anyone for their actions personally, except myself. I have bene guilty of targeting individual because I perceived they weren’t doing the job I hoped they would do. I would like to hope that I have focused on the persons actions and never personally attacked anyone, but the internet has a never-ending memory and I am sure someone could find a comment that crossed that line.
The Osaka situation has made me re-evaluate the role which people who are extraordinary talent and get paid to showcase it are held to a higher standard than you and I are. The letter from tournament organizers seems to me to make sense when it comes to player responsibilities to help promote the game. But if you remember when Osaka came on to the major tennis scene, she beat Serena Williams at the US Open and was verbally harassed during the match in all sorts of manners. From that point on, she was a focus for some fans at every tournament just because she beat another player. Osaka points to her bouts of depression and anxiety from that moment forward.
Sports has become an interesting combination of four actors. The sport (represented by owner or organizations), the players, the media and the fan. The relationship was much clearer forty years ago when media was there to be the provider of information for fans of the relationship between players and sport. I’m not saying there went mental health issues then, as there were many, but the coverage of them was non-existent and therefore not in the realm of discussion like they are today.
The internet has become not just one more layer to be considered for each of the four actors, but it has expanded the reach of each of them and created new benefits and disadvantages for each. The speed at which information can be spread has led to a news cycle that feeds upon speculation more than fact. The ability of athletes to interact with fans has led to fans believing they have the right to point out every issue they have with said athletes openly. (Media included)
There are many more facets to this that I don’t have the intellectual ability to analyze and get out in a timely manner to feed the news cycle.
I will say this though. I promise to be better from now on. Although I am not “official” media, I will think about how I write about my frustration with certain members of the Canucks organization. I will start writing with the thought that the people I write about read this work and are people just like me, but way better at their job. I don’t believe that people who make lots of money have the responsibility to answer for their actions. Professional athletes in a business do have a responsibility to try and promote the game and their bosses can dictate to some degree how they do it.
These bosses have to realize though, that just because you have a star athlete, it doesn’t mean that they are built to deal with all aspects of the business side of the sport. Obviously, a lot has happened to Osaka since her US open win for her to get to the point she wants nothing to do with media. The WTA has dropped the ball if one its best players is willing to withdraw from a grand slam than have to face an environment that the WTA has created.
Let me also address the first person who wants to go with the “if I made that much money and was famous, I shouldn’t complain about having to deal with fans and media.” By being an athlete or famous, should your mental health be ignored for the benefit of others curiosity?
Let’s ask Francesco Aquilini.
Should he have to answer though?