nAomi Osaka’s emotional comments and tears after she was booed during her second-round loss at Indian Wells on Saturday immediately drew comparisons to the famous incident at the same tournament in 2001 when the Williams brothers were mercilessly – and unfairly – booed. Even though the setting is the same and both events reveal the downside of fandom, the circumstances surrounding each are definitely not the same.
At the 2001 tournament, minutes before the highly anticipated semifinal match between Venus and Serena (who was both a slam champion at the time), Venus withdrew due to injury. The next day, during the final between Serena and Kim Clijsters, most of the audience jeered and jeered at Serena, as well as Venus and their father Richard who were watching the match on the touchline. Serena ended up winning the final as the proud and defiant Richard.
There was a lot of talk at the time that perhaps Richard Williams had “arranged” a recall by Venus to give Serena a chance to shine. And while Richard Williams has left himself open to criticism with his highly unconventional – and wildly successful – training techniques, the thought that the sisters would conspire and rob a fair competition event is an exaggeration. And, indeed, the sisters had faced off on a bigger stage when Venus beat Serena in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2000, just eight months earlier.
What made the 2001 situation with the Williams brothers so disgusting was the mob mentality of a group of very rich white people hurling insults at a young black athlete.
Serena said afterwards, “Nothing like this has ever happened to me. What’s most surprising about this commotion is the fact that tennis fans are usually a polite group. They are respectful. They sat quietly. And in Palm Springs, in particular, they also tend to be rich. But I looked up and all I could see was a sea of rich people – mostly older, mostly white – standing and booing lustfully, like some kind of polite lynch mob.
“I don’t mean to use inflammatory language to describe the scene, but that’s how it looked from where I was on the pitch. Like these guys would come looking for me after the game.”
The Williams sisters have since boycotted the event until 2015 when Serena once again played at Indian Wells (Venus joined her a year later).
Fast forward 21 years to Saturday’s incident with Osaka and the situation is different. This time there was no right, the bully mob, but rather the lone fan to let go of the pathetic cuss of “you suck, Naomi”. If that doesn’t hurt too much for Osaka, there’s humor in the absurdity and stupidity of such comments. Osaka “sucks”, really? One of the greatest athletes on the planet, who has undoubtedly achieved more and worked harder for it than a woman who feels it’s okay to scream things like that.
Andrew Krasny, who handled post-match on-court interviews for Indian Wells, was no doubt aware of the history of the tournament when he said to Osaka, “Out of about 10,000 people, one person’s vote can’t outweigh the other 9,999. We love you here.”
Unfortunately, harassment from fans who feel they have the right to say anything, no matter how vulgar or wrong, because they have paid to watch athletes perform, is becoming more and more common. Players at this year’s Australian Open questioned whether the fan boos (or was it really?) had gone too far. In football, England players were racially abused by their own ‘supporters’ after their defeat at the European Championships last year; The NBA has banned fans from confronting players at games; and NFL players were booed in a moment of silence to acknowledge inequality. The behavior even extended to professional wrestling, where WWE star Seth Rollins was assaulted by a fan at an event in New York last year.
And impoliteness is a reflection of the breakdown of broader respect in society. Unofficial rules of politeness, part of the collective and informal social contract, have been set aside. We need only look back at Joe Biden’s State of the Union address a few weeks ago when ultra-conservative Congressman Lauren Boebert booed when the president spoke about the issue of military veterans and the death of his son Beau.
Osaka has struggled to cope with the demands of the spotlight and she’s had a very tough 12 months. Most striking was his refusal to be involved in the press conference at the 2021 French Open, which resulted in his withdrawal from the tournament. Some believe answering questions is part of an athlete’s job, others credit Osaka for having the courage to reveal her vulnerabilities in such a public forum. He later missed Wimbledon due to mental health issues and, after a third-round loss at the US Open, he took another break from the sport saying winning didn’t make him “feel happy” anymore.
But putting aside the obvious fact that denouncing someone who has struggled with their mental health is stupid and cruel, the woman who told Osaka she was “sick” should be reminded of this: even though 24 years has passed from world No. 1 to 78, she’s still won slams at each. -each of the last four years. No other player besides Novak Djokovic can say the same.
Fan abuse of Naomi Osaka is ridiculous – and increasingly common across sports | Naomi Osaka
Source link Fan abuse of Naomi Osaka is ridiculous – and increasingly common across sports | Naomi Osaka