Naomi Osaka, Kyrie Irving Controversies Spark An Important Conversation About Mental Health in Sports

Does anyone remember when Kevin Love first opened up about his struggles with mental health? Back in 2018, he was one of the first NBA players to sit down and talk specifically, you know, how a little stressful it was to play in today’s league that isn’t completely private, saying he had a panic attack in the middle of the 2017 game, he wrote Later on his episodes of depression in an article by Player Tribune. Love wrote, “If it weren’t for two of my best friends, I don’t know if I’d be here today to tell my story.”

For a while, I felt like he was the champion in the league. Demi Lovato and Matthew McConaughey awarded him the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. It was great. A victory for everyone who felt anxious who was afraid to talk about it. Cut to April 2021. In a fit of frustration (for which he has since apologized), he sent a pass inside to the opposing team, which instantly made a bucket. Suddenly? Unprofessional, unforgivable, immature. Love went from archetype of bravery to nicknamed asshole within two years.

That’s all there is to say: Love was one of the first people I thought of during the media storm of two controversial sports stories (which… really shouldn’t be) this weekend. Someone watched Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving — who has missed several games this season in part due to “family and personal things,” as he explained through tears on a Zoom call in January — a Boston Celtics fan nearly threw a water bottle. Then we watched the sad ending of tennis star Naomi Osaka at the French Open. After declaring that she would not practice any press at the tournament due to mental health concerns and a desire to avoid insensitive questions from the media, the French Tennis Federation fined Osaka $15,000. She promptly removed herself from the tournament, writing in a message posted on Twitter on Monday afternoon: “The truth is I’ve had long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018, and I’ve had a very hard time dealing with that. Whoever knows me knows I’m an introvert. And anyone who’s seen me at tournaments will notice that I often wear headphones because it helps relieve my social anxiety.”

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The sports media and fans seem to have gone back to their old ways since they all posted their tweets defending Kevin Love two years ago. They are losing empathy for today’s athletes – which is completely wrong. a Didspin The article criticized Osaka and supported sports journalists, writing, “Her boycott of the media at the French Open is misleading. Worse, it is decidedly unprofessional.And there’s Piers Morgan, who, in a column for daily Mail, He called Osaka’s withdrawal “a frankly disdainful attempt to avoid legitimate media scrutiny by weaponizing mental health to justify its boycott.” As for Irving? People focused on making fun of him for stomping on a post-Celtics logo game, rather than looking at what Irving said after the game: “It’s unfortunate that the sport has come to so much of this kind of crossroads where you see a lot of old ways come up. Also in history in terms of entertainers, performers, sports for a long period of time, just latent racism and treating people like they were in a human zoo, throwing things at people, saying things.” I think it would go without saying, but here we are, shredding athletes Who have the courage to speak out about their mental health issues. Certainly, athletes should spend time with the media. But when those same media rip them to shreds over personal issues they know nothing about, and fans literally throw shit on their heads, do you think we can excuse them from a post-game press or two?

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We can do better than attack the columns for our biggest and best sports stars just to say they’re not okay. In our new lives – with new rules, everything new, and scars that will never go away – we have to do better than that. When anyone says they’re struggling — whether it’s an athlete, a celebrity, or that friend you haven’t spoken to — you need to listen. But for today’s purposes, know that in today’s world of social media and clicks, a guy like Kyrie Irving is a thousand times more likely to have anxiety attacks than, say, Larry Bird. It’s a black guy who just finished playing a stint in the same city that billed Bill Russell with every racist slur you can imagine. And you have fans who say he skipped matches so he could celebrate his birthday. It’s as if we learned nothing from Delonte West who suffers so much from bipolar disorder that Mark Cuban had to pick him up by the wayside and get him into rehab.

Irving is right – there’s an ethnic side to all of this, too. It’s no coincidence that Kevin Love has been praised for being open about his struggles in the first place. Now, you’ve got both Irving and Osaka expressing (either through protest or outright announcing it) how deeply they are suffering from the death of George Floyd, and we’re still seeing headlines like, ‘Kyrie Irving’s excuse about why he missed Thursday’s game: ‘I just don’t want to’ I play “?

Of course, in the end, something has to be done here between the athletes and journalists who get paid to keep track of their every move, then. Requests them about their every move. Osaka can’t avoid the media for the rest of her career, even admitting that she could have communicated better than she did last weekend. But the media can’t openly pass on nonsense about her mental health issues. Former tennis star and current ESPN analyst Rennae Stubbs said he’s the best in the A The New York Times Write about the weekend epic:

I think Naomi has always struggled with public speaking and dealing with the press always made her anxious, so it finally came to a head. You cannot allow a player to gain an unfair advantage by not pressing Post-match. It’s a waste of time, so if one player doesn’t and the other doesn’t, it’s not equal. But then, it’s time to take a closer, extended look at it all.

On the last thought: When I was in school, my newspaper sent me to cover the last football game of the season. I’ve never covered a football game before – that was in 2016 – Pete vs. Syracuse. The bottom line was the basketball score: Pete won, 61 to 76. Thinking about how to sum up what felt like an IRL video game, I packed myself into the press room at Heinz Field (where the Pittsburgh Steelers also play) with what seemed like every reporter sweating in the city. I’ll never get this picture out of my head: All these damn T-shirt men near future NFL running back James Conner, jamming phones at him and shouting questions over each other. This was Conner’s last match at Heinz Field, the place where he returned from his widely publicized cancer diagnosis to play again. Obviously, the man was feeling a lot. He looked like he was about to cry. He could hardly give any coherent answers. Mind you: I was green as hell afterwards, wondering if/how/when I should join the mosh pit. I did not do. But I remember thinking: There is no better way to do it… than this? You definitely should have heard the media from Conner that day for sure. But I wish he had that moment to himself. I’m sure he did too.

Mike Kim

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