Forum: Professional athletes have contractual obligations to fulfil, Forum News & Top Stories

I refer to the recent reports on tennis star Naomi Osaka and how she breached the terms imposed on French Open participants and refused to show up for a post-match press conference.

For that, she was fined US$15,000 (S$19,900) and threatened with expulsion. She subsequently withdrew of her own accord.

There are contractual obligations in professional sport. Participants are made to sign undertakings because organisers and sponsors spend huge sums not just for the love of the game.

They expect promotion and publicity for their events. A lot of this comes from the post-event inquests that journalists subject participants to.

These are not, as Osaka claims, similar to “kicking people when they are down”.

These analyses enable fans to gain deeper insights into both the physical techniques and the mental strategies of the stars in their favoured sports.

The reports, which go in depth into who won and who lost, play a major role in sustaining enthusiasm to keep the money rolling in.

A lot of this money has ended up with Osaka, who is one of the world’s most highly paid female athletes. Estimates of her worth range from $33 million to $72 million, with most in the region of $48 million.

If her mental health cannot stand the stress of the cross-examinations, people would be sympathetic should she take a break.

But her strident demands demonstrate a sense of entitlement. She wants to be allowed to play, to continue to collect the huge pay packets, and yet not fulfil the other obligations of being a sporting professional.

I know what it is like having had to scrape around for sponsorship in my early years in the motor racing arena. Later, as a team manager and sponsor myself, I expected those I supported to do their part in promoting my brands. And as the organiser of many events, I had to keep other sponsors happy so that they would continue their support.

I therefore have very little sympathy for Osaka. She should remember that if she is not happy with the terms, there are lots of others lining up to take her place.

Lee Chiu San