Venus Williams Had An Incredible Quote On How She’s Dealt With Media Criticism

On Monday, 2-seed Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open following a win in her first round match, after her request prior to the tournament to not do press conferences created an uproar. Osaka said she didn’t want to be “a distraction” and chose to withdraw, going into detail on the anxiety she feels during press conferences and noting that stepping away was best for her mental health.

It was the unfortunate end to a saga that became much bigger than it needed to be, and despite her withdrawal, it remains a top point of conversation at Roland Garros. Players are being asked for their thoughts on the situation, with others being asked for how they’ve coped with the media scrutiny and criticism over the years, as the topic of players mental health has shifted more to the forefront — which should be the conversation we’re all having.

Venus Williams has been doing this since 1997 and understands the mental toll it can take hearing criticism not just as a player, but as a Black woman. When asked after her first round loss on Tuesday for how she’s handled that, she had a very to the point response.

It is a more than fair mindset for a professional athlete to have, and one many have adopted when it comes to critiques from those of us that write about, talk about, and analyze sports. That confidence is part of what gets people to the elite level in sports and maintaining that confidence means being able to ignore criticism, particularly harsh and at times unfair criticism. It’s also something that isn’t easy to do, which is likewise just as understandable for someone to struggle blocking it out.

The athlete-media dynamic is a complicated one, because neither side is a monolith. Media, as a whole, covers a wide array of jobs, from beat writers and reporters to sports talk takesmiths and hot take artists and everything in between. Athletes also handle the media differently, with some embracing what it can do for their profile and enjoying the experience, while others loathe it or battle anxiety with public speaking. As such, each case needs to be handled individually and a better understanding of that latter point of athletes being individuals and people needs to happen among media as a whole. Some like Venus are just better at ignoring us than others.