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Couch: Naomi Osaka is no Muhammad Ali. She can’t float like a butterfly, and she’s being drowned by her enemies

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Naomi Osaka has identified the wrong enemy. She has partnered with and cozied up to hers without knowing it. Meanwhile, her abuser has convinced Osaka to blame an innocent bystander.

If you want to know what's wrong with the most talented female tennis player in the word, I think that's it. Her mind is being manipulated by an abuser she mistakes for her lover.

At Osaka's news conference this week before a tennis tournament near Cincinnati, a reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer asked her a simple, non-challenging question about her relationship with the media. She has, after all, withdrawn from one major and dropped out of another this year to avoid press conferences. After answering the question, she broke into tears.

Darn media at it again? No. A few minutes later, her real enemy bared fangs. Her agent, Stuart Duguid of IMG, tweeted this:

"The bully at the Cincinnati Enquirer is the epitome of why player/media relations are so fraught right now. Everyone on that Zoom (conference call) will agree that his tone was all wrong and his sole purpose was to intimidate. Really appalling behavior."

Don't fall for it, Naomi. You don't need a man to defend you. You can be a strong woman. Deep down, you know there was no bullying, no intimidation, no tone. Don't you?

Osaka's handlers are her greatest enemy. They have her going in all different directions that she is not prepared for: social justice queen, face of the Olympics, documentary subject, swimsuit model. Did I forget one?

Oh yeah: tennis champion.

When she starts to crack up? Tell her it's the media's fault. Tell her that she'll feel better when she can get away from them and spend more time on the next self-glorifying project her handlers arrange, profit from, and use to recruit a new athletic pawn in need of manipulation, oops, management.

This is the game being run on modern athletes. Their primary relationship is no longer with a coach, someone motivated to improve their on-court performance. Their most important relationship is now with a marketer, someone motivated to monetize an athlete's immature and malleable worldview and brand. Athletes are pushed beyond their depth. It's no wonder Osaka is drowning. She's surrounded by sharks.

Including the compliant social justice mobsters in the media, who have partnered with her marketers to drag her into the deepest intellectual waters. It's all part of a scam that allows media bloviators to elevate themselves by pontificating about her Muhammad Ali-like swim.

Osaka's agent doubles as her lifeguard. His tweet was damage control, a life preserver flung into the ocean he created. Everyone has access to the video of his client taking on water.

No one likes the media, so he called the Cincinnati reporter a bully because people would believe that. That would make Osaka a victim, which the bogus social justice mob would eat up and then spit out as click-worthy narrative.

The truth is that the media were embarrassingly soft on Osaka, as always. Someone actually asked her if she was proud of herself for being so brave as to drop out of the French Open.

Ben Rothenberg from the New York Times tweeted this: "Four Qs or so went smoothly. Naomi was doing well. Then someone from Cincinnati Enquirer asked her a fairly aggressively toned question about how she benefits from a high media profile but doesn't like talking to the media. Osaka tried to engage, but after her answer began crying.

"This was deeply frustrating. The tennis media people who know Naomi (and whom Naomi knows) had it going smoothly, and then a local reporter completely derailed it. Don't blame this on `tennis media' again, folks."

Had it going smoothly? The media's job is to be a watchdog. It's a neat trick for a member of the media to argue that it wasn't the media's fault, but instead you should blame the media. In this case, Rothenberg was exonerating the clique of media that enable Osaka.

Cincinnati columnist Paul Daugherty asked Osaka, "You are not crazy about dealing with us, especially in this format. Yet you have a lot of outside interests that are served by having a media platform. I guess my question is: How do you balance the two?"

Osaka fumbled for an answer. The moderator asked if she'd like to move to the next question. Osaka said no, that she was interested in this one.

Does that sound as if she felt bullied?

I don't blame Osaka any more. If someone gave me $55 million and marketed me as a hero of humankind and the face of the Olympics, I'd probably jump, too.

But Osaka's handlers have used her up to sell products and are close to spitting her out. They have jeopardized a sure-fire Hall of Fame career. And if she cracks up?

Don't worry: The marketers will find someone else. They'll be fine.

Days before the French Open this year, Osaka announced that she would not participate in the tournament's required press conferences, saying the media are too hard on athletes. The tournament, as well as the other majors, threatened to fine and suspend her. Osaka then said she had mental health struggles in dealing with the press, and she pulled out of the tournament.

That whole thing was orchestrated by her enemy, her marketers, so they can take full control of her message.

It was a power play with the media. And most of the media buckled because Osaka fits so well into their social justice narrative. She's a black woman supporting Black Lives Matter and talking about mental health issues.

She can do no wrong, even quitting a tournament and blaming others.

So Osaka went on to withdraw from Wimbledon, light the cauldron at the Olympics, appear on magazine covers, and lose early at the Games.

She never smiled once. Osaka needs an intervention against the drugs of attention and money. In old Westerns, the good guys wore the white hats and the bad guys black hats. If only it were that simple for Osaka.
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