F1 Champ Lewis Hamilton Blasts Handling of Naomi Osaka’s Media Blackout

Naomi Osaka, the No. 2-ranked women’s tennis player on the planet, begged to opt out of media obligations in defense of perceived unfair treatment by some media in how the media treated some losing players and in an effort to concentrate on her game during the ongoing French Open tournament at Roland Garros.

Osaka tweeted her reasoning for a self-imposed media blackout on May 26, saying in part, “…I’m not going to do any press at Roland Garros. I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one. … I’ve watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well. I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they’re down and I don’t understand the reasoning behind it.”

For her actions, tournament organizers fined her $15,000.

Osaka, who won last year’s U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open, promptly withdrew from the event.

Seven-time Formula 1 champion and activist Lewis Hamilton was asked on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan, about his feelings on the Osaka controversy. Hamilton was critical of the way officials treated the 23-year-old tennis star.

“I think she’s incredibly brave, and I applaud her for her bravery,” Hamilton said. “It’s now asking those in power, putting them in question and making them have to think about how they react. Because I think they way the reacted was not good with the fine.

“Someone talking about their personal mental health and then being fined for it, that wasn’t cool. I think they could have definitely handled it better. I hope they take a deep dive into it and find a better way to navigate it in the future. As athletes, we are pushing ourselves to the limit. We are on the edge, and we’re human beings.”

Hamilton, 36, said that he knows what it’s like to be a young athlete thrust upon the world’s stage. He won his first Formula 1 race at the age of 22.

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“I think she’s an incredible athlete and human being, and her activism has been just so impactful—and at such a young age with so much weight on her shoulders,” Hamilton said of Osaka. “It’s inevitable the fact is when you’re young and thrown into the limelight and into the spotlight, it weighs heavily on you. And the thing is, probably most of us are not prepared.

“I remember when I got to Formula 1 and the team had PR (public relations specialists). I was never prepared for being thrown in front of the camera or guided as to what to look out for, and helped to navigate through that. So, you just kind of learn through mistakes. It’s incredibly nerve-racking, especially when you have all good intentions and people take advantage of it.”

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