A Public Apology to Naomi Osaka


Dear Naomi,


I just wanted to express my sorrow and to apologise for the fact that you have been hounded out of the French Open. I think that everybody involved in sport – fans, administrators, players, sports writers, editors, directors and commentators are all guilty of complicity in this, this latest disgraceful event in sport.

In my opinion, you have effectively been cancelled because you are a Black Asian woman and you suffer from depression. If you were a white man this would never have happened.

And this has been done by sport and in the name of sport.

I certainly feel complicit in it because (in however a small way) I am a cog in the sports industry that has chewed you up and spat you out. And what will sports writers do? Wash their hands. And what will tennis players do? Wash their hands. And what will sports fans do? Wash their hands. And what will sports administrators do? Wash their hands. So many Pontius Pilates, so little time.

The only solution to the problem of sport is to banish it to hell. To walk away and (sorry for another biblical reference) to shake the dust off our feet as we do so. But we won’t, will we? And I’m sorry for that.

This could have happened in any sport to any woman. It’s nothing to do with tennis. And yes, I know you are maybe the highest-paid female athlete in history. And yes, post-match interviews boost your earnings from tournaments and sponsors. And I get why media want them, however inane they are. And I get that this is an industry and you are rich and famous because of its profits. You know this, too, of course.

The response to your hounding out of the French Open from self-entitled media people and fans is as predictable as it is disgraceful. I won’t repeat the comments on traditional and social media. The sexism and racism endemic in sport is partly responsible for this. But it goes deeper, to the dehumanising and commodification of players as we (fans) seek our next high. The mocking of players – who for whatever reason – are perceived as being failures, is persistently sickening. But nothing will change until people walk away from it.

The truth is that we don’t deserve you, but you certainly don’t deserve us.

We don’t deserve your art, no matter how it shines and lights up our lives. Nothing we say or do in our witnessing or describing your art is, in any way, meaningful when compared to your beauty. I cannot describe your beauty or your art. No words can. Even David Foster Wallace would fail. He wrote that Michael Jordan hung in the air like a Chagall bride, Pete Sampras defied Euclid and Roger Federer was both flesh and not. Wallace’s contention that sport ‘allowed humans to carve out exemptions from physical laws and to create a transcendent beauty that made God manifest in man’ doesn’t do enough. It’s just a description – a depiction – of the real thing.

You, Naomi, are the real thing – we are not. I hope you can reach for that in the dark days ahead.

I hope I never see your art again, Naomi. I hope you walk away from sport and all this shit. It’s not worth it. We are not worth it.

I hope you will be safe and well.

I’m sorry this is incoherent and so badly written but I wanted to get it out before I calmed down.

I’m sorry.




Picture: the Guardian.

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