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All – Stars Rush to Back Naomi Osaka’s Decision to Leave French Open



Sweetgreen, Nike, Calm, and other brands moved quickly this week to back tennis star Naomi Osaka after she dropped out of this year’s French Open. Their moves are a reminder that on some social issues in 2021, companies no longer want to stay neutral.



The backstory: Last Sunday, Osaka dropped out of the tournament to focus on her mental health after initially declaring she’d skip mandatory press conferences.





Osaka sponsors Sweetgreen, Nike, BareMinerals, and watchmaker Tag Heuer all issued public statements in support of her decision. Calm, an app that produces guided meditations, offered to pay the $15,000 fine for any player opting out of 2021 Grand Slam media appearances for mental health reasons.



At 23, Osaka has earned $55 million in the last 12 months from endorsements, putting her in a tie with Tiger Woods as the twelfth highest-paid athlete in the world. And her outspokenness stands in contrast to many athletes with high-dollar endorsement deals who have stayed quiet in the past.



Bottom line: Brands want to be seen as taking mental health concerns seriously, and Osaka gives them an opportunity to rally around the cause.

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