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Jack Nicklaus hopes Naomi Osaka gets help she needs, encourages media to show understanding

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One of the most media-friendly athletes in the history of sports is Jack Nicklaus, who will offer an honest answer or opinion on almost any subject when asked.

Nicklaus also is an avid tennis fan, so it wasn’t surprising that he was asked during a news conference on Tuesday at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, the site of this week’s Memorial Tournament, about four-time grand slam winner Naomi Osaka and her announcement last week that she would not participate in news conferences during the French Open because she believed it was “endangering” her mental health.

She was fined after refusing the first media availability after her first match, then withdrew from the tournament.

Nicklaus, who believes athletes, in general, owe the media accessibility, still empathized with Osaka.

“If she has [anxiety issues] … that that bothers her … then you guys [the media] should be able to accommodate her and allow her to do what she needs to do without running her through the wringer,” he said. “If she has a problem, if she really has one, you don't know that, I don't know that, only she knows that and her doctor probably knows it. … so I can't fault her. I feel badly for her and I hope that she [gets] whatever she needs.”

Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open after her first round match.
Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open after her first round match.

Nicklaus also said that the media was different when he was playing.

“I think you have a few people in the media today who are trying to make a name and they want to get sensational,” he said. “We have had that for 20 years or so. Didn't have it much right when I was growing up. But … you pretty well identify those people pretty quickly. And then you're just careful with what you do. But you still [the media] you got a job to do.”

Nicklaus said he’s found that fairness begets fairness.

“I’ve always dealt with you guys ... I treated you fairly, you treated me fairly,” he said. “And I don't understand some of the young people today and thinking they're not going to get treated fairly. I mean, you always get treated fairly if you treat somebody else fairly.”

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jack Nicklaus says media should 'accommodate' Naomi Osaka's anxiety