Naomi Osaka and Money
Updated: Sep 8
2 years ago, I wrote an article about NBA writer Kevin Arnovitz and his absurd take on making NBA players "happy." Basically Arnovitz's argument was that if the NBA abolished the draft and allowed players to play on any NBA team of their choosing, that simple gesture would help their mental health.
I tried to explain the business model of the NBA to Arnovitz. The NBA is paying the players very large sums of money to play by their rules. If NBA players were truly worried about their mental health, they could play basketball for much smaller sums of money elsewhere and still live comfortably.
So guess what I'm about to say about Naomi Osaka? The headlines at the Daily Mail exclaimed "I Don't Know When I'll Play My Next Tennis Match." Okay. As I read about Osaka at the British Tabloid, I couldn't help but think about the poor NBA players.
Osaka doesn't want to do press conferences. She doesn't like losing. She seems to not enjoy the grind of tennis. She doesn't have to play on the WTA Tour. She just doesn't.
She could retire right now and be a tennis pro at a country club. Could a high end retired tennis pro in Seattle or San Francisco make $100,000 a year? She sure could.
Osaka could sign a deal with World Team Tennis that would allow her to just play tennis and not do press. When is the last time you saw a WTT press conference on ESPN? I don't think it has ever happened. Osaka would trade millions of dollars for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the WTT/San Francisco Country Club Pro scenerio, but she could potentially save her mental health.
Or could she STILL make millions not playing tennis at all?
Let me be crystal clear here that we are specifically talking about money.
You want to know someone I genuinely feel sorry for in sports? McKayla Maroney. That poor girl should hate U.S. Gymnastics and overcame real abuse to reach the pinnacle of her sport.
Besides Larry Nassir, multiple members of US Gymnastics should also be in jail for aiding and abetting Nassir's crimes. When I think of people who shouldn't have to do press conferences, Maroney's name pops up to the top of the list. Former NHL'er Sheldon Kennedy is another name that comes to mind.
If Osaka's anxiety is simply being in the spotlight, she can step out of the spotlight. To my knowledge, Osaka has never been abused by her own sport in a criminal fashion.
Anna Kournikova was an average tennis player that never even made a Grand Slam Final in her career. Her career record in singles tennis was 209-129. Naomi Osaka has already won more matches at 23 than Kournikova won in her entire career. And Osaka has multiple U.S. Opens and Australian Opens under her belt.
But the casual tennis fan over 30 doesn't know who Naomi Osaka is. Anna Kournikova marketed her beauty and I guarantee you that she's made more money in endorsements than actually being on the tennis court.
Anna Kournikova also played in the WTT. She used that platform to stay in tennis shape and to further her business endeavors. Kournikova didn't even have to play in the WTT to stay in the public eye, she was constantly in the tabloids dating hockey stars (like Pavel Bure), dating Latin heartthrobs (like Enrique Iglesias), and having secret marriages (with Sergei Federov.)
Naomi Osaka can play a little WTT, lay low....
You say she's dating rapper Cordae and was Sports Illustrated's co-athlete of the year in 2020 for her activism?
We do not endorse ABBA's brand of pop rubbish here, but they serve an important example of how to disappear.
In 1981, ABBA was on top of the world and selling albums by the boatload. But all 4 members of the band had simply had enough of each other. After the Visitor's album was released, the band blew apart.
Editor's Note: We were going to post a single from the Visitor's, but those songs were extra bad in an overall terrible discography.
Inexplicably, ABBA was one of the biggest pop acts in the world. What did ABBA do over the next 40 years? Well, for one, they famously turned down a BILLION dollars to re-unite and tour about a decade ago. 3 of the 4 members of ABBA stayed busy doing small projects in and around Stockholm Sweden, and the fourth member, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, became a countess in the Swiss Alps.
But they more or less disappeared from the public eye, until just this week, when they announced their new album The Voyage. For 4 decades, they weren't shut ins, they just chose a different path than international stardom.
Osaka can just disappear in Japan or in America.
If she wanted to.
So as the media feeding frenzy continues to swirl around Osaka, she has some choices to make. With over $20,000,000 in career earnings, is she done with the WTA? That kind of money affords her the opportunity to become a full time social activist.
Or does she dial it back a notch and try the WTT/Country Club Pro model? I really don't believe this option is in play because she is simply using mental health as a trojan horse to change the WTA, I don't think at her young age she is serious about addressing her mental health.
Or does she become an independent contractor? Osaka has won enough where she could retire and do some branding. She could start her own clothing line, marketing her tennis virtuoso and her attractiveness.
Or does she continue to suck from the WTA corporate teet, then whine about how bad it tastes? You know, collect millions in salary, millions in endorsements, then use the WTA, when convenient, to spout off her social justice agenda.
AKA, the LeBron Model.