Patrick McEnroe, Billie Jean King weigh in on Naomi Osaka's decision to withdraw from French Open

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Tennis legends Patrick McEnroe and Billie Jean King shared their thoughts on Naomi Osaka’s decision to withdraw from the French Open on Monday afternoon amid media boycott backlash.

McEnroe, who won doubles at the French Open in 1989, made an appearance on “Good Morning America” and he gave “a lot of credit” to Osaka for raising awareness on the topic of mental health, however, he feels “once you become a professional athlete, you decide to play by certain rules of the game.”

“Quite frankly, I was surprised initially to see her take this stance although she has been at the forefront of other very important issues — the Black Lives Matter issues last summer,” McEnroe said. “She is using her platform to bring awareness to certain issues, very important ones — mental health is an incredibly important topic. I think there may have been a few missteps along the way from Naomi and her team, looking at how this was going to play out.”

McEnroe continued: “The federation has reached out to her, she apparently didn’t respond which is why they released this statement which I felt was a little bit heavy handed in sort of threatening her with disqualification. I didn’t like that at all. I think the conversation needs to happen, there’s been a lot of other athletes who have dealt with this so I give Naomi an awful lot of credit for bringing this attention.

“She is a professional tennis player, she is an athlete so you have to abide by certain rules, one of which is speaking to the press on a regular basis. Now maybe that could be. We could work with her, the powers that be — they’d like to have that discussion.

“She is the highest paid female athlete on the planet,” McEnroe continued. “She has a huge platform, and a great player but I thought that was too much, going too far threatening her. The statement up until that was fine, they reached out to her about mental health awareness. They said, ‘Is there any way we can work this out, maybe come to some compromise in the short term?’ But in the long term, you can’t have players just deciding to do whatever they want to do.

King, on the other hand, tweeted on Sunday that she was “torn” over the issue as she tries to “learn from both sides of the situation.”

“While it’s important that everyone has the right to speak their truth, I have always believed that as professional athletes we have a responsibility to make ourselves available to the media,” King said. “In our day, without the press, nobody would have known who we are or what we thought. There is no question they helped build and grow our sport to what it is today.”

King acknowledged that things are different now with social media, but she believes that the media plays an important role in telling the stories of athletes. However, she says that “at the end of the day, it is important that we respect each other and we are in this together.”

Osaka made the announcement on Twitter – one day after she was fined $15,000 for skipping a post-match press conference. She explained her decision in a lengthy statement.

Following Osaka’s decision to withdraw, French Open organizers released a statement saying that it’s “unfortunate” that she withdrew from Roland-Garros, but they “wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery.”

Last week, Osaka announced she was going to skip the press conferences following matches at the French Open. She said mental health concerns were the reason for her decision.

Tournament organizers said Osaka was fined for failing to “honor her contractual media obligations.” The four-time Grand Slam tournament winner addressed the fine in a tweet after her 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig.

“Anger is a lack of understanding,” Osaka tweeted at the time. “Change makes people uncomfortable.”

Each of the four Grand Slam tournaments released a joint statement threatening to default her for violating the players’ Code of Conduct rules.

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.

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