Congratulations are in order for 23-year-old Naomi Osaka, who took home the best female athlete award at the 2021 ESPY Awards. The tennis superstar stepped out on the red carpet at Pier 17 in New York City, marking her first public appearance since withdrawing from the French Open and Wimbledon. She stunned in a striped, black and white top with a green skirt by Louis Vuitton, and spoke eloquently on stage when she accepted the honor.
— ESPN (@espn) July 10, 2021
“I just really want to not say a long speech because I’m a bit nervous … I know this year has been really, it hasn’t even finished, but it’s been really tough for a lot of us,” Naomi began, likely referencing the media storm that occurred after she spoke out about mental health. “For me, I just want to say, I really love you guys and this is my first ESPYs so it’s really cool to be surrounded by all these incredible athletes.”
She continued, “I think all of you guys are really cool and I watch some of you on TV so it’s really surreal to be here and yeah, thank you so much and I really appreciate it.” Ahead of the French Open in May, Naomi announced that she would not be participating in press conferences at the tournament. Upon skipping a post-match media commitment, she was fined $15,000. The following month, she chose not to play in the 2021 Wimbledon tournament.
… and she always gives the most wholesome speeches 🥺 pic.twitter.com/XrorWcjVUz
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 11, 2021
“Naomi won’t be playing Wimbledon this year,” her agent said in a June 17 statement. “She is taking some personal time with friends and family. She will be ready for the Olympics and is excited to play in front of her home fans.” Naomi herself spoke out in May, after her initial media boycott at the French Open.
“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” she wrote in the May 31 statement. The tennis star also shared that it was never her intention to “be a distraction,” and said her initial message “could have been clearer. More importantly I would never trivialize mental health or use the term lightly.”