Lindsay Crouse | Naomi Osaka’s French Open Power Move – The New York Times

Ms. Crouse is an Opinion writer and producer.

“When Naomi Osaka dropped out of the French Open on Monday, after declining to attend media interviews that she said could trigger her anxiety, she wasn’t just protecting her mental health. She was sending a message to the establishment of one of the world’s most elite sports: I will not be controlled.

This was a power move — and it packed more punch coming from a young woman of colorWhen the system hasn’t historically stood for you, why sacrifice yourself to uphold it? Especially when you have the power to change it instead.

Women have long functioned as bit players in sports industries designed by and for men. Now Ms. Osaka, who at 23 is the top-earning female athlete in history, is part of a growing group of female athletes who are betting that they’ll be happier — and maybe perform better, too — by setting their own terms. Increasingly, they have the stature and influence to do so.

In 2019, the runner Mary Cain, now 25, explained how rather than continue to harm her mental health by competing for Nike’s famed track coach Alberto Salazar, she left the sport in 2017 for a few years — and wound up changing it. She is starting a new kind of women’s track team, in which the athletes are employees of a nonprofit instead of working for a corporation.  . . .”

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