Bombshell $77 million truth emerges in Naomi Osaka controversy

Naomi Osaka, pictured here speaking to the media after winning the 2021 Australian Open.
Naomi Osaka speaks to the media after winning the 2021 Australian Open. (Michael Dodge/Tennis Australia via AP) (AP)

Naomi Osaka is set to be announced as the world’s 12th highest-paid athlete this week, with Forbes predicting her press conference furore will actually endear her with sponsors.

According to Forbes, Osaka made a staggering $77.5 million (AU) over the past 12 months - breaking her own record for female athletes.

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A whopping $71.7 million of that total came from endorsements and sponsorships, making her the 12th highest-paid athlete in the world and outranking male stars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Osaka's long list of endorsement partners has gone past 20 over the last year, with Google and Louis Vuitton jumping on board most recently.

And while many might think her controversial media boycott at the French Open will hurt her sponsorship numbers, Forbes believes it is actually the opposite.

"It’s the kind of stance that might send corporate sponsors running. Not likely for Osaka," wrote Brett Knight.

"Her endorsement deals do not contain reductions if her playing time is limited. In fact, many of her leading sponsors have already jumped to her defence, even as some fans on social media are slamming her decision."

Japanese sponsor Nissin Foods wished Osaka a quick recovery while the world's biggest athletic shoe maker, Nike, lauded her for her courage in sharing her mental health experience.

“Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognise her courage in sharing her own mental health experience," Nike said in a statement.

GoDaddy, Hyperice, Levi’s, TAG Heuer, Sweetgreen, MasterCard and Beats Electronics all expressed similar sentiments.

“I don’t think there’s a downside for her - I don’t think there will be any kind of brand damage,” veteran marketing consultant Joe Favorito told Forbes.

“Where she comes out of this personally as opposed to professionally will hopefully be a good story that sponsors will want to be a part of.”

Naomi Osaka, pictured here in action Patricia Maria Tig at the French Open.
Naomi Osaka in action Patricia Maria Tig at the French Open. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua via Getty Images) (Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima)

Tennis world wraps arms around Naomi Osaka

The World No.2 stunned the tennis world on Monday when she pulled out of the French Open after being fined and threatened with expulsion for declining to face the media after her first-round match.

On Tuesday, the four grand slam tournaments released a joint statement commending Osaka for sharing her experience and promised to make things better for players.

"We wish to offer Naomi Osaka our support and assistance in any way possible as she takes time away from the court," the statement read.

"She is an exceptional athlete and we look forward to her return as soon as she deems appropriate."

While her original stance had earned the Japanese 23-year-old little backing from her fellow professionals, most saying that dealing with the media was part of the job, her withdrawal triggered a wave of support from around the world.

"The first thing to be considered is Ms. Osaka's health. I wish her the earliest possible recovery," Japan Tennis Association executive director Toshihisa Tsuchihashi said on Tuesday.

with AAP

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