Piers Morgan is standing by his criticism of Naomi Osaka despite a fierce backlash after he accused her of playing the victim and adopting a strategy straight from the “Meghan and Harry playbook”.
The British media personality has been a ferocious critic of Meghan and Harry and in a column for the Daily Mail earlier this week, accused Osaka of exploiting the issue of mental health to avoid attending press conferences at the French Open.
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Osaka has since pulled out of the Grand Slam completely after just one round for mental health reasons, saying she has suffered “long bouts of depression” since 2018 and gets “anxiety” when speaking to the world’s media.
While many pundits were critical of Osaka’s initial claim the media has no regard for players’ mental health, the world has largely wrapped its arms around the Japanese star following her decision to pull out of Roland Garros and take time away from tennis.
However, Morgan isn’t backing down, responding to a host of tweets criticising him — some of which accused the former TV star of having a problem with women of colour.
“What does her skin colour have to do with it? I’d have written the same column if Naomi Osaka was white. For you to now play the race card to attack & silence any perfectly justified criticism of her behaviour is shameful,” Morgan wrote in response to political commentator Ameshia Cross, who alleged he “hates black women”.
Osaka isn’t in the right headspace to compete in a Grand Slam.Source:Getty Images
In another tweet, Morgan wrote: “Are high-profile women of colour exempt from criticism regardless of their conduct? Sorry, I must have missed that woke memo! The people I’ve criticised most harshly in the past year are Donald Trump & Boris Johnson and last time I checked, they were identifying as white men.”
“What journalist will dare criticise Naomi Osaka ever again? She’s got what she wanted — no more criticism, only praise,” Morgan added on social media. “Meanwhile all her fellow tennis professionals will continue to fulfil their contractual obligations to the media & get criticism when deserved. This seem fair?
“I have a problem with high-profile people who exploit the media for huge financial gain and then attack the same media and use mental health as a weapon to silence criticism.
“My critiques of people have nothing to do with gender or skin colour & everything to do with how annoying they are.”
Morgan also said on Twitter Osaka had “withdrawn because of the backlash to her attack on the tennis media for doing their job”, rather than mental health problems.
Morgan defended his sensitivity around topics such as mental health, and posted a photo of himself alongside Serena Williams as part of his defence against the critics.
Yes trolls, I have a real problem with female black tennis stars…. pic.twitter.com/I3AcNGxKhr
Grand Slams backtrack after Osaka threat
Meanwhile, the four Grand Slams on Wednesday (AEST) pledged to “create meaningful improvements” to their tournaments in an effort to avoid a repeat of the Osaka storm.
When Osaka was fined nearly $AUD20,000 on Sunday for not appearing at a news conference following her first round win, Grand Slam chiefs warned her of future consequences, even threatening to disqualify the world No. 2.
“Repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions,” they said.
However, tennis bosses adopted a far more sympathetic tone when issuing a fresh statement on Wednesday.
“On behalf of the Grand Slams, we wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court. She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate,” the statement by the French, US and Australian Opens and Wimbledon said.
“Mental health is a very challenging issue, which deserves our utmost attention. It is both complex and personal, as what affects one individual does not necessarily affect another. We commend Naomi for sharing in her own words the pressures and anxieties she is feeling and we empathise with the unique pressures tennis players may face.
The world No. 1 is taking some time away from the sport.Source:Getty Images
“While players’ wellbeing has always been a priority to the Grand Slams, our intention, together with the WTA, the ATP and the ITF, is to advance mental health and wellbeing through further actions.
“Together as a community we will continue to improve the player experience at our tournaments, including as it relates to media. Change should come through the lens of maintaining a fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status. Sport requires rules and regulations to ensure that no player has an unfair advantage over another.
“We intend to work alongside the players, the tours, the media and the broader tennis community to create meaningful improvements. As Grand Slams, we aim to create the stage for the players to achieve the highest accolades in our sport.”
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