Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka revealed she has battled bouts of depression since 2018
Former Good Morning Britain host Morgan used his newspaper column on 31 May to label Osaka “narcissistic” and an “arrogant spoiled brat whose fame and fortune appears to have inflated her ego to gigantic proportions”.
The diatribe has led many to come to Osaka’s defence. On her Instagram, Welch accused Morgan of stigmatising mental health. She said: “Piers also proves why so many people suffer in silence because of fear of being called ‘an arrogant narcissistic spoiled brat’. This man is a f…..g disgrace.”
Osaka — a four-time Grand Slam champion — withdrew from the French Open on Monday citing mental health concerns. She dropped out of the event days after she had announced on her social media that she would boycott press conferences during Roland-Garros to protect her mental health.
Skipping the presser after her first round victory saw her issued a fine of $15,000 as well as a warning of further punishment to come from the heads of the four Grand Slam tournaments — the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open ― for “choosing not to honour her contractual media obligations.”
The 23-year-old tennis star then posted a statement on her Instagram in which she said that withdrawing from the French Open was the “best thing for the tournament, the other players and my wellbeing.”
Osaka has been battling “long bouts of depression” since 2018 and in the statement said that she has a “really hard time coping with that.” She added: “I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak with the world’s media.”
She also mentioned that she had written to the tournament privately and apologised. Osaka revealed that she had told them that she would be more than happy to speak with the media after the tournament as “Slams are intense.”
Morgan, meanwhile, said that Osaka was “weaponising mental health to justify her boycott.” He also said that: “This is straight out of the Meghan and Harry playbook of wanting to have the world’s largest cake and eating it, by exploiting the media for ruthlessly commercial self-promotion but using mental health to silence any media criticism.”
This isn’t the first time Morgan has been in the line of fire for problematic comments about mental health. He once mocked the singer Will Young for speaking out about his PTSD, saying what he was really suffering from was “whiny needy twerp syndrome”.
In March, after he attacked Meghan Markle over her interview with Oprah Winfrey and said he did not “believe” the duchess’s comments about her mental health struggles, he stormed off the set of Good Morning Britain and quit his job. Ofcom launched an investigation after they received at least 41,000 complaints about his on-air remarks about her.
Morgan took to Twitter to attack Welch as well after her post. He said: “I hope Denise reflects on her foul-mouthed tirade and works harder on her anger management. I wish her well.”
Meanwhile, many fellow athletes have rallied around Osaka and supported her decision. On Instagram, Venus Williams wrote in the comments to Osaka’s statement: “So proud of you. Take care of yourself and see you back winning soon!”
The UK’s Centre for Mental Health has expressed disappointment that the “responses to Naomi Osaka show deep-seated prejudices about mental health still need to be rooted out”. In a statement on Tuesday, it said: “It is even more disturbing that some media commentators have made unfounded accusations in relation to this situation. Instead of making it safer for people to disclose distress, these comments uphold the harmful cultures of secrecy and stigma in our society.”
The Centre for Mental Health applauded Osaka for speaking out. It said: “We call on those in positions of power, privilege and influence to use their platforms to bring empathy, compassion and understanding, to fight rather than foment prejudice, and to help us all move forward.”