2021 saw some of female sports greatest ambassadors fly the flag of prioritising mental health. None other than Naomi Osaka did so by withdrawing from the French Open, which drew divided opinion across the globe. Some thought it was a noble initiative to endorse athlete’s protecting their mental condition and physical. However, others critiqued the tennis player because her actions were deemed ‘unprofessional’. Osaka was fined $15,000 to withdraw and not to honour her contractual media obligations.
Four-time Olympic gold medallist, Simone Biles, is another athlete who has put her mental health first ahead of competing. During the Tokyo Olympics, she pulled out of the women’s gymnastics team final to ‘focus on her mental health’. Biles shared she didn’t want to continue; she didn’t trust herself as she used to and didn’t want to risk getting an injury at such a clinical moment.
We also witnessed the England national football team reach the Euro 2020 final but were cut short by Italy. Although, that wasn’t the biggest disappointment of England’s Euro 2020 campaign. Twitter reportedly deleted over 2,000 racist tweets in the wake of the tournament. Plus, the UK was announced as the largest country of origin for the abusive tweets on the final night. The nation spoke out about how appalled they were at these horrific events, including UK’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel. Although, England player, Tyron Mings, responded to the Home Secretary and expressed his upset about Priti’s earlier message about England’s anti-racism message being labelled as ‘Gesture politics’.
Despite potential controversies surrounding these events, they demonstrate the power behind athlete-driven marketing to empower social change. Simone and Naomi have now found themselves as mental health advocate’s alongside the England national team supporting social change. The likes of Marcus Rashford continues to trailblaze his efforts by working with politicians to support deprived communities. Ultimately, athlete’s raising awareness about social change will continue to raise the profile of organisations supporting social causes.