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Naomi Osaka Is Talking to the Media Again, but on Her Own Terms – The New York Times

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The tennis superstar is guest-editing Racquet magazine and has written a cover essay for Time. What’s left for traditional sports journalism?

In early May, a couple of weeks before she tweeted that she wouldn’t appear at a required news conference at the French Open, Naomi Osaka was on a Zoom call with a writer for Racquet magazine who was trying to gain insight into the athlete’s inner life.

Ms. Osaka said she’d gone to the protests in Minneapolis last year and had been moved by what she saw.

“It was a bit of an eye opener,” she said of the experience, “because I’ve never had time to go out and do anything physically.”

Ms. Osaka ignited a furious debate over the role of the tennis media with her announcement that she’d pay a $15,000 fine rather than attend a news conference that she said was bad for her mental health. Her decision, and the response from tennis officials, ended with her withdrawal from the French Open. The British tennis writer Andrew Castle called her decision “a very dangerous precedent” that would behugely destructive and a massive commercial blow to everyone in the sport.”

If the freak-out over the cancellation of an inevitably boring news conference seemed a bit oversized, it was because Ms. Osaka didn’t just open a new conversation about mental health in sports. She touched a raw nerve in the intertwined businesses of sports and media: the ever-growing, irresistible power of the star. We journalists are touchy about retaining what is often pathetically minimal access to athletes. The media was once the main way that sports stars found fame, glory and lucrative endorsements, and a glossy profile can still play a role in elevating an obscure player. But the rise of social media and of a widening array of new outlets has produced a power shift, as my colleague Lindsay Crouse wrote in June, “redistributing leverage among public figures, the journalists and publications that cover them.”

Ms. Osaka walked into the middle of that dynamic during the French Open. While tennis news conferences can be quite weird — some local journalist in the room amuses the traveling press by confusing one Russian player for another, or asks a particularly off-the-wall question — the mood is usually pretty sedate. Most players roll with them without complaint. And Ms. Osaka wasn’t being grilled about her personal life or her mental health. She was bothered by questions about her performance on clay courts. Another recent question concerned what she planned to wear to the Met Gala, a high-society Manhattan event of which she is a co-chair.

She has become the best-paid woman in sports, earning about $60 million last year according to Forbes, and almost universally positive coverage hasn’t hurt her ability to build a portfolio that includes swimwear and skin care lines, two Nike sneakers and the Naomi Osaka bowl at Sweetgreen. And she drew broad and favorable coverage when she provoked a tournament into taking a day off to make a statement on police killings of Black Americans. She has a cover essay in the next issue of Time that is conciliatory toward the media even as it expands on her statements about mental health, a person familiar with it said.

“The press is a willing accomplice to what most of these athletes are trying to accomplish,” said the Tennis Channel commentator Brett Haber.

Ms. Osaka at the Australian Open. She set off a debate about the media’s role with her announcement at the French Open that she’d rather pay a fine than attend a news conference.
Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

I have an impulse to defend the need for athletes to give news conferences, on the principle that what Naomi Osaka does today, Joe Biden will do tomorrow. But there’s an additional layer that muddies the media’s position, which is that athletes are only talking to us because they’re under contract. “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” the running back Marshawn Lynch groused repeatedly in a video Ms. Osaka also posted. There’s something a bit compromising in athletes appearing at a news conference not because they need, or even respect, the power of journalism but because a corporation is paying them to sit on the dais and reluctantly have no comment.

Enterprising reporters can still get insight from news conferences, and many athletes don’t share Ms. Osaka’s stress about them. “It’s like pretty easygoing,” the Polish tennis player Iga Swiatek said last week. But while independent journalists can still deliver everything from breakthrough investigations to commentary, the role of journalism as a mere conduit for athletes’ words doesn’t make that much sense anymore. Ms. Osaka “could do a press conference on Instagram live if she wanted,” her agent, Stuart Duguid, told me.

The ritual is “a relic of an era when they needed the press — when the press were the accepted conduit between athletes and the public,” a Guardian sportswriter, Jonathan Liew, said in an interview.

But the Osaka story has broader resonance because sports, and the media that covers them, are often leading indicators of the direction in which we’re all headed. In 2007, Hillary Clinton’s top spokesman, Howard Wolfson, told me he was preoccupied with Major League Baseball’s site, MLB.com, and how the league had created a media entity that it totally controlled. Why couldn’t a politician and her campaign do the same, he wondered? It didn’t quite work for her, but by 2008, Barack Obama was producing videos far more compelling than anything the networks were making. In 2016, the Trump Show was the best thing on TV, syndicated to your local cable network.

The assault on the independent sports media reached its peak with the 2014 introduction of The Players’ Tribune, with the promise of giving players their own voice. But that effort pretty much fizzled, selling to an Israeli media company in 2019. Though it occasionally published powerful essays, it mostly had that sterile quality of a glorified news release.

Athletes’ more successful ventures into media have avoided taking on journalism directly. The model is the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, who has spent a decade building a media company that has done deals for TV shows and movies with HBO, Netflix, Warner Brothers and others. And at its best, these platforms can elicit more than you’d get at a news conference. Mr. James built his company, in part, on the insight that athletes would open up to one another, and “didn’t want to be asked questions that everyone should know the answers to,” said Josh Pyatt, the co-head of WME Sports, who has been at the center of building media companies for athletes.

On a recent episode of “The Shop,” produced for HBO by Mr. James, the quarterback Tom Brady acknowledged the wooden quality of many athletes’ comments to the press.

“What I say versus what I think are two totally different things,” said Mr. Brady, who co-founded another media company, Religion of Sports, with Michael Strahan, the former New York Giant and current “Good Morning America” host. “Ninety percent of what I say is probably not what I’m thinking.”

Who wants that? But somewhere between the compulsory news conference and the glory days of Sports Illustrated, there’s space for a new independent sports journalism, one that reckons with the power athletes now wield on their own platforms but also retains a degree of journalistic independence that most of the athlete-owned media companies don’t attempt.

That, at least, is the thinking behind Racquet, a gorgeous print tennis quarterly that started in 2016 with literary ambitions (the first issue included not one but two reconsiderations of the novelist David Foster Wallace) and has an ambitious, diverse roster of writers. Its next issue, due in August, will be guest edited by Ms. Osaka. It includes the interview with her (by Thessaly La Force, who is also a features director of T: The New York Times Style Magazine); an essay on the Japanese discovery, through Ms. Osaka, a Japanese citizen, of the Black Lives Matter movement; and a photo essay on the tennis culture in Ms. Osaka’s father’s native Haiti.

Photo illustration by Johanna Goodman/Getty Images for Racquet Magazine

A tennis media that revolves around daily news cycles is “still living in an age where pulling quotes from a presser makes a headline, makes a story,” said Caitlin Thompson, a former college tennis player and veteran journalist who is Racquet’s publisher and co-founder, with David Shaftel. “They’re not operating in a world where an athlete can reach more people and be more attuned to the larger cultural and social contexts than they are.”

Racquet has tried to straddle those worlds. Its contributors include Andrea Petkovic, a top German player (and another Foster Wallace fan), and the Greek player Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is also a photographer. But it also published a tough investigation of allegations of domestic abuse against the German tennis star Alexander Zverev. And Thompson said that younger players “understand what we’re doing because they’re children of the internet — they’re all Gen Z.” The Australian Nick Kyrgios, for instance, has a “context in which he wants to be seen, which is this kid playing Call of Duty between matches and being more into the Celtics than the men’s tour,” Ms. Thompson said. (The August Racquet issue also explores Ms. Osaka’s medium of choice, manga.)

Ms. Osaka skipped Wimbledon, but she’s expected to be back for the Tokyo Olympics this summer. And the Racquet issue offers a bit of the texture of a young star’s strange life — between hotel rooms and tennis courts — that you would be hard-pressed to find at a news conference.

Ms. Osaka sometimes describes herself as shy, but she told Racquet: “Tennis is a thing that I’m least shy about. At the end of the day, even if I don’t win that match, I know that I have played better than 99 percent of the population, so there’s not anything to be shy about.”

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Jennifer Aniston Talks Britney Spears And '90s Media Attention – 915thebeat.com

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Jennifer Aniston discusses the pandemic, dealing with ’90s media attention and more in a new interview with InStyle.

The “Friends” star is asked about people saying the ’90s were the greatest because there wasn’t social media. However, as pointed out in the article, the likes of Britney Spears still weren’t treated well by the media.

Aniston shares, “ feeding on young, impressionable girls. Half of these kids started on ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’.

“I was lucky enough to be raised by a very strict mother. The priorities were not about becoming a famous person. It was, ‘Study your craft, learn what you’re doing, don’t just go out there and get lucky.’

“I waitressed for years. I got a Bob’s Big Boy commercial on my 900th commercial audition. I was doing theatre on, like, Long Island.

“I think that group of girls as teens didn’t have any kind of ‘Who am I?’ They were being defined by this outside source. The media took advantage of that, capitalized on them, and it ultimately cost them their sanity. It’s so heartbreaking.”

[embedded content]

RELATED: Courteney Cox And Jennifer Aniston Pay Tribute To Lisa Kudrow On Her 58th Birthday

Aniston also talks about the upcoming second season of “The Morning Show”, saying of the press tour: “I call it the dog-and-pony show — travelling to do press junkets, red carpets, the shiny-penny things. Do people really need all that?

“The work is what I love to do. It’s the promotion of it that creates some stress in me. You get, like, a second of what it is that you’re promoting, and then the rest of it is salacious crap that you somehow got wrangled into talking about. There’s a big appetite for that — and listen, I get it. But if you don’t give it, then they make it up.”

RELATED: Jennifer Aniston Doppelgänger Goes Viral Thanks To Epic ‘Friends’ Impression

Aniston adds of how she’s reset over the COVID-19 pandemic: “My level of anxiety has gone down by eliminating the unnecessary sort of fat in life that I had thought was necessary. Also realizing that you can’t please everybody. And what good does that do if you’re just little bits of yourself?

“Let’s try to be the full all of who we are so we can come to the table. The way the media presents us folk in this business is like we’re always trotting around the world, on beaches having fun. But there are a lot of other, less obvious things that go into it.”

The interview will be featured in InStyle’s September issue hitting newsstands on August 20.

GALLERY: Style Evolution: Jennifer Aniston

© 2021 Entertainment Tonight Canada, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Top 10 Casino Movies You Must Watch in 2021

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bar cocktail casino luck

Gambling provides inherent drama for movies since, by definition, they revolve around risk. You likely avoid watching prudent and cautious characters as a casino lover and prefer people putting themselves on the line in desperate, sometimes irrational, hope for a big score.

The gambler in casino movies is like the veteran detective taking up one last case before retirement. They may have a calm home life in the end, but counting their wins makes the perfect backdrop for high octane chases, mysteries, and action. Here are ten films that strap you in for a wild ride through gambling or the world it takes place in.

California Split

California Split is perhaps the most successful classic by director Robert Altman. Altman stars in the film as Charlie, a gambler that befriends Bill, another gambler. Charlie has a severe gambling addiction, but Altman exudes his laid-back charm and casual mastery to delightful effect.

The two friends working side by side reeked of a rakish charm, making the film a high watermark of the 1970s’ hangout cinema. The movie explores a beautiful male friendship with a whole lot of gambling in between. The gut-punch ending may be muted, but it is a perfect ending to such a wild ride.

The Gambler

James Toback based this film on his own addiction, and it ended up being a massive success during its release in 1974. What is great about the classic movie is that the main character, Axel, is obsessed with gambling for the danger and self-destruction. He makes bets to fall deeper into the rabbit hole, even arguing that the fun of gambling is losing for him.

This is such a dangerous situation for any gambler, to say the least. However, Axel, played by James Caan, brings the audience on his desperate chase for the next rush. He may be gambling in casinos, but he’s playing Russian roulette.

Fear and Loathing Las Vegas

This cult-favorite film is based on the true story of journalist Hunter Thompson played beautifully by Jonny Depp. The title character and his lawyer take a psychedelic trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to cover a sports event. In Sin City, the duo blow their money on drugs and venture in search of the American Dream, running into gamblers, drug dealers, police officers, and hitchhikers.

This casino movie does not depict the glitz and glam of Las Vegas but the dark, deranged, and dangerous place it can be when dealing with the wrong crowd.

Uncut Gems

This Josh and Benny Safdie’s 2019 thriller got a well-deserved discussion for its incredible intensity. The film features Adam Sandler as Howard, a hopeless gambling addict who takes players on a nerve-wracking ride and cannot stop until he completely destroys himself.

The brilliance is Howard’s ability to suck viewers into his sickness, having us rooting for the crazy ideas he concocts. The film injects the character’s mania into the audience’s veins that even after the tragic finale, one may want to get right back on the ride for the crazed rush again, just like addiction.

The Hangover

Not all gambling-themed movies are serious and seedy. Some like the 2009 comedy The Hangover are lighthearted with some casino fun thrown into the mix. This movie follows the adventures of a Las Vegas bachelor party that takes “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” to a new level.

We meet the three main characters waking up and unable to recall the previous night’s events and must work it out. Among the biggest mysteries they have to solve is why one is wearing a wedding band.

Casino

This must-see work of art is directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese and stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Hames Woods, and Sharon Stone. Casino goes behind the curtains of a mob-controlled casino and gives a glamorous high-end rendition of the Sin City lifestyle. Robert De Niro plays the lead, an ex-gangster seeking to turn his life around by working a regular job on a Las Vegas casino floor. However, his search for normalcy is soon interrupted by Joe Pesci, a mafia underboss seeking help with his establishment.

Croupier

Croupier turns the tables and looks at the gambling world from the dealer’s point of view. Jack, an aspiring novelist, played by Clive Owen back when he was a lightning bolt, is desperate for money and becomes a croupier.

The croupier makes the players his subjects, exploring the sweating anxiety and crippling sadness as consequences of throwing money and lives at the tablets. The film captures the dingy gambling lifestyle in a magnetic and intoxicating way, leaving the audience satisfied with the plot’s complications.

Rounders

Rounders easily qualifies as the Citizen Kane for pathological gamblers. While the film touches on an issue affecting millions worldwide, it does a great job capturing the swagger and dopey masculinity of going pro in poker. Mike (Matt Damon) discovers a hidden poker talent. He realizes it is not a sustainable career, but his best friend Lester drags him back to the frenzied world of gambling. The poker drama is an educational piece showing a realistic example of how compulsive gambling has severe consequences.

Casino Royale

The Martin Campbell 2006 remake of Casino Royale is among the highest-rated from the 007 series. The movie is a sleek representation of the risk, wealth, and classic in the high-stakes world. Daniel Craig plays the secret agent James Bond on a mission to stop a criminal banker.

Craig plays a high-stakes poker game of Texas Hold ’em at Montenegro’s Casino Royale in one showdown. It still has the extravagant super spy atmosphere, and it shows how criminal organizations use gambling to launder their money.

21

21 is a movie so compelling with elaborate gameplay sessions and dangerous action that it can be challenging to believe it is based on true events. The film presents a group of MIT students and their professor using a card counting technique to swindle casinos of millions. While they do get caught in the end, the team ends up establishing one of the most effective and frowned upon ways to win in blackjack.

Closing Thoughts

These films are all available to watch online on different platforms. Some of them showcase the glamour that comes with gambling, while others serve as a warning for digging yourself too deep into the casino world.

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Tencent tanks 10% after Chinese media calls online gaming 'opium' as regulatory concerns mount – CNBC

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A logo of Tencent is seen during the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, November 23, 2020.
Aly Song | Reuters

GUANGZHOU, China — Shares of Tencent and NetEase plunged on Tuesday after Chinese state media branded online gaming “opium” and likened it to a drug.

The article also called for further restrictions on the industry in order to prevent addiction and other negative impacts on children.

However, the article was deleted a few hours after publication.

Tencent shares closed around 6% lower, while NetEase closed down almost 8% in Hong Kong, with both companies clawing back some earlier losses. Tencent is one of the world’s largest gaming companies responsible for high-profile games like “Honor of Kings.”

NetEase declined to comment. Tencent was not immediately available for comment.

The article, by Economic Information Daily, a Chinese state-run publication that’s affiliated to the official Xinhua newspaper, said that online gaming addiction among children is “widespread” and could negatively impact their growth.

The article said that in 2020, more than half China’s children were nearsighted and online games affects their education.

The sentiment in the article is not that new. For a long time, the Chinese government has been concerned about the impact of video games on minors.

In 2018, Beijing froze new game approvals over concerns that gaming was impacting youngsters’ eyesight. In China, online games require approvals from the regulators.

In 2019, China brought in rules that banned those under 18 years from playing online games between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and restricted the amount of time they could play.

“The article brought attention to gaming addiction among minors. It is reminiscent of older articles where video games were compared to digital heroin,” said Daniel Ahmad, senior analyst at Niko Partners.

“The timing of the article has raised concern among investors given the recent crackdown on tech companies and the education/tutoring sector.”

Tencent announces new measures

The article also called for more control over the amount of time children are playing games for and review content of games more stringently to reduce the amount of “improper” information shown to minors.

“For the next step, there should be stricter controls over the amount of time minors play online games. It should be reduced by large amount from current level,” the article said, according to a CNBC translation.

Both NetEase and Tencent have introduced measures to protect young players including real-name registrations to play games. Last month, Tencent introduced a facial recognition feature on smartphones to verify that the gamer is an adult.

But after the publication of the article on Tuesday, Tencent announced further gaming restrictions

It will reduce the amount of time those under 18 years old can play the company’s games on non-holiday days from 90 minutes to one hour and on holidays from 3 hours to 2 hours.

Tencent will also bar children under 12 years old from spending money in the game.

The gaming giant said it will also crack down on identity fraud to find minors who are using adults’ accounts to play games. These new measures will begin with Tencent’s “Honor of Kings” game and eventually roll out to other titles.

Tencent also called for the whole industry to discuss the feasibility of banning gaming for children under 12.

Ahmad noted that most revenue in China is generated by players who are 18 years old and above.

“If more measures come into place to prevent youth addiction to gaming, it won’t stop revenue generating gamers from playing,” Ahmad said.

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