1. Combine mental health with unaccountable female superstar athletes and you get.…another “How dare you expect me to answer questions like any other pro athlete, you sexists racist!” moment from Naomi Osaka. Ahead of the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, tennis’s reigning queen finally agreed to sit down for questions from the press on a Zoom call. You will recall that at the French Open in May, she said she would decline to do pretournament or post-match news conferences, even though they are required of all players. When Osaka was fined $15,000 for skipping her press commitments after her first-round victory, she withdrew before her second-round match in Paris, for the first time playing the mental health card., later used so effectively by Simone Biles at the Olympics. At the session in Mason, Paul Daugherty, a sports columnist for The Cincinnati Enquirer, asked ,“You are 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. I guess my question is, How do you balance the two?” Osaka, after an attempt at an answer that wasn’t an answer, ran out of the room in tears. Her agent, Stuart Duguid, said via text message, “The bully at The Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now. Everyone on that Zoom will agree that his tone was all wrong, and his sole purpose was to intimidate.”
Imagine that response from a male athlete to a legitimate if tough question. Imagine an agent for such a male athlete calling the questioner a “bully.” Female athletes cannot protest that they must be treated equally with male jocks and still reserve the right to revert to delicate flowers when it serves their purposes.
The withdrawal of female tennis star Naomi Osaka from the French Open because she wasn’t allowed to ignore rules all the other players were forced to play by has inspired a revealing amount of criticism…of the concept that stars should have to abide by the same rules and laws as everybody else. Since this is a massive ethics blind spot that defies persuasive advocacy, I’ve been somewhat surprised that so many commentators and athletes have been willing to put such an unethical position in print.
I shouldn’t have been, I guess. Osaka (predictably) played the victim, suddenly revealed that she suffered from depression (the old reliable “I’m not bad, I’m sick!” ploy satirized in “Officer Krupke”), and she had the triple benefit of being Asian, Black and female, the “Get Out Of Accountability Free” hat trick (that’s hockey, but you get the point) in the Age of The Great Stupid.
I was originally going to dedicate this post to the fatuous commentary of New York Times columnist Kurt Streeter, to whom all sports is about race, on l’affaire Osaka. “Using social media posts, first last Wednesday then on Monday, Osaka called out one of the most traditional practices in major sports: the obligatory news conference, vital to reporters seeking insight for their stories, but long regarded by many elite athletes as a plank walk. After monumental wins and difficult losses, Osaka has giggled and reflected through news conferences and also dissolved into tears. In Paris, she said she wanted nothing to do with the gatherings because they had exacted a steep emotional toll,” he wrote. “She sent a message with significant weight: The days of the Grand Slam tournaments and the huge media machine behind them holding all of the clout are done. In a predominantly white, ritual-bound sport, a smoothstroking young woman of Black and Asian descent, her confidence still evolving on and off the court, holds the power. Get used to it.”
Get used to what? Star athletes (and politicians, and other celebrities) thinking that if they are successful enough and popular enough, they get to break rules and get away with it? We’re used to that. But the point is that she doesn’t have the power. Tennis authorities fining her and threatening to kick her out of upcoming tournaments proved it. So she threw a tantrum, quit, took her ball and went home, and that’s admirable to Streeter, or anyone else? Well, but, you see, “it is impossible to know the depth of Osaka’s internal anguish” as “the rare champion of color in a tennis world dominated by fans, officials and a press corps that is overwhelmingly white.” Oh, gag me with a spoon. I’d be willing to suffer a lot of internal anguish in an enterprise I could make over 50 million dollars in a year, as Osaka has. Who wouldn’t?
On Ethics Alarms yesterday, the controversy involving the current top female pro tennis star, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, was relegated to the morning warm-up rather than a stand-alone post. If you were not following EA yesterday, here’s a quick summary:
Citing her annoyance with repetitious questions from the news media that undermined her confidence, the 23-year old announced that she would violate the 2021 official Grand Slam rulebook, which requires players to participate in post-match news conferences. Violations result in fines of up to $20,000, but since Osaka made over 55 million dollars last year alone, more than all but the most elite U.S. professional athletes, this fine would be like a late fee at the library to normal people. I wrote in part,
“This is literally an example of a star announcing that rules are for lesser mortals. Verdict: Ethics Dunce. The reason Osaka makes so much money is that athletes are paid heroes and entertainers, and submitting to the idiocy of reporters is part of their job. Fines obviously aren’t enough: a tennis player who refuses to fulfill her obligations to the sport should be banned from competing until she does.“
Yesterday, after winning her first round match at the French Open, Osaka was fined (but only $15,000), and tennis officials proved that they read Ethics Alarms (I jest) and told Osaka that continuing her boycott of the media would result in her being suspended from the current tournament and others. Good. The organization had no other choice, unless it wanted to directly endorse the King’s Pass (Rationalization #11). If Osaka was allowed to snub the media with minimal consequences (for her), then no other player would feel obligated to cooperate either. Rennae Stubbs, a former player who is now a coach and ESPN analyst, stated the obvious while most of the players and former players were expressing sympathy for Osaka: “You cannot allow a player to have an unfair advantage by not doing post-match press. It’s time consuming, so if one player is not doing that and others are, that is not equal.”
It will be interesting to see if the news media discusses the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 any more this May 31 than it has in the past. Discussing this horrible mass murder of blacks in Oklahoma over Memorial Day weekend has always been seen as sufficiently tasteless that the story has suffered the equivalent of a historical airbrushing. When did you first learn about it? I didn’t encounter the episode in elementary school, high school, college or law school. I was 50, and furiously researching the life of Clarence Darrow so I could churn out a one man show (that was already in rehearsal) after Leslie Nielsen pulled the rights we had paid for on the Darrow show performed on Broadway by Henry Fonda. I was looking for the context of Darrow’s epic closing argument in the Sweet case (1925), in which he referenced examples of white mob violence against blacks. That was my introduction to the tragedy. How was this possible? I was and am a voracious consumer of American history, movies, and television. Yet the facts of the Tulsa Race Massacre never entered my consciousness.
Here’s one useful resource…there are many others available online. A brief summary: After World War I, Tulsa’s African American community was notable for its affluence. The Greenwood District was known as “Black Wall Street.”But on May 30, 1921, an incident between a white woman and a black man on an elevator—nobody knows exactly what happened—was reported in the Tulsa newspapers as an attempted rape. The young African-American, Dick Rowland, had been arrested, and members of the community believed that he might be lynched. When an angry white mob gathered in front of the courthouse, a group of over 70 back men, some of them World War I veterans with weapons, confronted them. A gun went off in a struggled, and chaos descended on Greenwood. A white mob of thousands overran the Greenwood District, shooting unarmed black citizens in the streets. It burned an area of some 35 city blocks, and more than 1,200 houses, numerous businesses, a school, a hospital and a dozen churches. It is estimated that 300 people were killed in the rampage, though official counts at the time were much lower. 300 is the same death toll as the 1871 Chicago fire. I knew about that tragedy by the time I was 8.
1. IIPTDXTTNMIAFB! That’s short for “Imagine if President Trump did X that the news media is accepting from Biden…”, introduced here. The current example: during a speech at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Langley,Virginia two days ago, President Biden began spontaneously complimenting a pre-teen girl who had joined her parents and two older brothers on the stage after her mother had introduced Biden to the crowd. Biden said, inappropriately and creepily, “ I love those barrettes in your hair, man. I tell you what, look at her. She looks like she’s 19 years old sitting there like a little lady with her legs crossed.” Republicans pounced, as the MSM cliche goes whenever Democrats are legitimately criticized. The episode was barely mentioned by the media dedicated to propping up Biden—that is, almost all of it—at all. IIPTDXTTNMIAFB…and President Trump didn’t even have a photographically preserved series of encounters like this:
2. AHHHH! It’s a virus ! Get a gun!!! The headline on the front page of the NYT website yesterday read, “Pandemic Fuels Surge in U.S. Gun Sales ‘Unlike Anything We’ve Ever Seen.'” Incredible. People bought guns for the first time because rioting was going on all over the country, and in many places the police were doing little or nothing to stop it. Buildings were burning and being looted; citizens were being threatened. Who gets a gun to fight a pandemic? (There was never any threat of the kind of civic breakdown from the virus like that portrayed in the movie “Contagion.” Toilet paper riots?)
The degree to which the Times—the “paper of record’!—continues to distort reality to mislead the public and warp public opinion is astounding. Later in the same article, the Times said, “While gun sales have been climbing for decades — they often spike in election years and after high-profile crimes — Americans have been on an unusual, prolonged buying spree fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the protests last summer and the fears they both stoked.”
Or, “How to get from one absurd news story to another…”
The New York Times story began this way: “Last year, the tennis champion was shown with light skin in an instant noodle ad. Now, she’ll be portrayed as a manga character, and illustrators insisted on getting details right.” Yes, this is what passes for news in the paper that refused to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story before the election, except to mock it. They would never mock white-washing accusations about a Japanese tennis star about to become a cartoon character. Now that’s news that’s fit to print!
Why I finished reading such a story, I do not know; I have no life, I guess. So I soon came upon this:
Naomi Osaka, 23, the highest-earning female athlete on the planet, has emerged as one of the most vocal antiracism activists in the sports world. In the July issue of Esquire, she wrote about tackling racism while inhabiting multiple identities. Before matches this year, she wore masks bearing the names of Black victims of police violence.
Ah! So the opinions of this non-American athlete about U.S. racial issues matters—why? Because she is rich? Because she is bi-racial (Osaka is the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Haitian-American father)? Because she knows anything at all about America and its race problems? Or because the half-baked, ill-informed positions she spouts happen to be the “right” ones?
If you picked the last, you get…well, nothing, but you’re right. According to an earlier article (in Forbes), Osaka presumed to protest police brutality and racism by wearing face masks bearing these names: Breonna Taylor, Elijiah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice. You know: black victims of police violence. Except:
Anger, boos, tears and an accusation of sexism overshadowed a remarkable victory by Naomi Osaka, a rising star who became the first tennis player born in Japan to win a Grand Slam championship.
Osaka soundly defeated her childhood idol, Serena Williams, 6-2, 6-4, in the women’s final of the United States Open on Saturday, blocking Williams from winning a record-tying 24th major singles title. But the match will long be remembered for a series of confrontations between Williams and Carlos Ramos, the match’s chair umpire, who issued three penalties against Williams in the second set, after Osaka had established her dominance.
The first was a warning after Ramos felt Williams was receiving instructions from her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, from the stands, which is against the rules. Williams was offended by the implication that she was cheating, and she demanded an apology. Later, after losing a game, she smashed her racket on the court, incurring a second penalty and the loss of a point. Finally, after she called Ramos a “thief” for taking the point from her, Ramos cited Williams a third time, resulting in the loss of a game. Williams’s anger intensified, and she pleaded for help from the tournament referee, Brian Earley, and the Grand Slam supervisor, Donna Kelso….
But what should have been a moment of uninhibited joy for Osaka turned into tears of sadness. The postmatch celebration was tarnished by the angry booing from fans upset over what they perceived as Ramos’s unfair treatment of Williams, and amid the cacophony, amplified by the closed roof because of rain, Osaka pulled her visor down over her face and cried….
In the second game, Ramos spotted Mouratoglou urging Williams to move up, and Mouratoglou conceded that he was, in fact, coaching. But he argued that it is done by every coach in every match and that the warning was the cause of what followed. He said Ramos should have quietly told Williams to inform him to cut it out. “That’s what umpires do all year,” the coach said, “and it would have ended there, and we would have avoided a drama that was totally avoidable.”
Williams approached the chair to tell Ramos that it was a “thumbs-up” gesture and that she would never accept coaching on court, which is against the rules of Grand Slam events. “I don’t cheat to win,” she said in a stern tone. “I’d rather lose.”
During the next changeover, tensions seemed to simmer down during a civil exchange when Williams explained to Ramos that she understood he might have interpreted some coaching, but that none actually existed.
Williams went back on court, held her serve in that game, and then broke Osaka’s serve to take a 3-1 lead in the second set. If she could have consolidated that break, it might have turned the flow of the match. But Osaka broke right back, and after the game ended, Williams destroyed her racket by throwing it to the court in anger. That resulted in a racket abuse penalty, a second code violation, for which the penalty is a point. Osaka would start the next game ahead by 15-0. When Williams realized that, she argued more and demanded that Ramos apologize to her and make an announcement to the crowd that she was not receiving any coaching. Ramos, known for his no-nonsense approach, did not relent.
“You owe me an apology,” Williams said. “I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her and I have never cheated.”
When the next changeover came, with Osaka leading, 4-3, Williams, still visibly distraught over what she perceived as unfair treatment, told Ramos that he had stolen a point from her and called him “a thief.” For that, Ramos gave Williams a third code violation, which meant she lost a game. Without swinging her racket, Osaka was now ahead, 5-3, and one game from the championship. Williams did not appear to realize that Osaka had been given the game until she reached the baseline again. Now fuming, she returned to the chair and demanded to speak to Earley and Kelso. Fighting back tears as the crowd yelled, hooted and booed, Williams pleaded her case. She said the treatment was unfair and argued that male players routinely behave in the same manner without facing penalties.
“There are men out here that do a lot worse, but because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right,” Williams told one official. Later, at a post match news conference, she accused Ramos of sexism for issuing a code violation for her “thief” accusation….
As the players stood next to each other, fans booed and Williams, seeing how upset Osaka was, moved over and put her arm around the new champion and then pleaded with the fans not to boo.
Osaka, in her speech, apologized to the fans, acknowledging that most of the fans were rooting for Williams in her quest to set a career record.
Patrick Mouratoglou admitted to coaching Serena Williams during the U.S. Open final, but believes she never received his message….Mouratoglou said he had attempted to help Williams, but added coaching was common in almost every match.”I’m honest, I was coaching. I don’t think she looked at me so that’s why she didn’t even think I was,” he told ESPN.
“But I was, like 100 percent of the coaches in 100 percent of the matches so we have to stop this hypocritical thing. Sascha (Bajin, Osaka’s coach) was coaching every point, too. “It’s strange that this chair umpire (Carlos Ramos) was the chair umpire of most of the finals of Rafa (Nadal) and (his uncle) Toni’s coaching every single point and he never gave a warning so I don’t really get it.”
If you read Ethics Alarms with any regularity at all, you should be able to predict some of the commentary here, if not all of it.