Naomi Osaka Walked Out in Tears After This Question From "Bully" Reporter
The "appalling behavior" at a press conference led Osaka to briefly leave the room.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka has been open about the negative effects the media has had on her. On May 31, she withdrew from the French Open after declining to speak to the press, a decision that prompted both support and condemnation. In her first press conference since her withdrawal, Osaka ended up in tears after a question from a reporter that her agent later called "appalling behavior." Read on to see what made Osaka get emotional and briefly leave the room.
Naomi Osaka was asked a pointed question about her relationship with the press.
On Aug. 16, Osaka sat down for a Zoom press conference ahead of the Western & Southern Open. A question from Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty visibly upset her. "You're not crazy about dealing with us, especially in this format, yet you have a lot of outside interests that are served by having a media platform," Daugherty said. "I guess my question is, how do you balance the two?"
Osaka asked the journalist to repeat the question. "When you say, 'I'm not crazy about dealing with you guys,' what does that refer to?" she asked.
The tennis star left the room in tears after responding to the question.
The moderator at the event asked Osaka if she wanted to move on to another question. The tennis star declined and answered Daugherty's question after he repeated it. "I can't really help that there are some things that I tweet or some things that I say that kind of create a lot of news articles or things like that. And I know that it's because I've won a couple of Grand Slams, and I've gotten to do a lot of press conferences that these things happen," Osaka said. "But I would also say I'm not really sure how to balance it. I'm figuring it out at the same time as you are, I would say."
Moments after finishing her response, Osaka was asked two more questions from another reporter. One question was about her preparation for the upcoming matches, and another was about her reaction to the devastation in Haiti, citing her tweet on Aug. 14 that said she would give any prize money from the tournament to relief efforts, as her father is a native of Haiti. Osaka began to cover her face and tear up before the journalist could even finish asking the questions. The moderator then called for a brief break.
Osaka's agent called Daugherty a "bully."
Osaka's agent, Stuart Duguid, later expressed his distaste for Daugherty's question. "The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now," he said in a statement to NBC News. "Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior." He added, "This insinuation that Naomi owes her off-court success to the media is a myth—don't be so self-indulgent."
Daugherty was impressed with Osaka's answer.
Both Daugherty and the Cincinnati Enquirer felt the question was fair game. Cincinnati Enquirer executive editor Beryl Love defended her writer's question. "We appreciate the respectful dialogue with Ms. Osaka at the press conference. It was a straightforward question that we feel led to a meaningful exchange," Love told NBC News in a statement. "That said, we sincerely regret that our questioning upset her in any way."
Daugherty ended up writing about Osaka and her response to his question. He credited the young tennis star's candor, calling her response "honest, thoughtful … and unlike any answer I've ever gotten in 34 years covering sports in Cincinnati."