Sports Illustrated Editor Brands Megyn Kelly a 'Bully' for Criticizing Naomi Osaka Cover

The editor of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue has hit back at Megyn Kelly, after the TV host criticized Naomi Osaka's cover shoot for the publication.

Grand Slam champion Osaka, 23, announced in May that she was withdrawing from the French Open, stating that her mental health struggles made post-game press conferences difficult. She later decided not to compete at Wimbledon.

But on Monday, after Osaka was named as one of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue cover stars—alongside rapper Megan Thee Stallion and model Leyna Bloom—Kelly raised questions on Twitter.

"Since saying she's too introverted to talk to the media after tennis matches, Naomi Osaka has launched a reality show, a Barbie, and now is on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue," OutKick founder Clay Travis wrote on Twitter.

Responding to this tweet, Kelly wrote: "Let's not forget the cover of (& interview in) Vogue Japan and Time Mag!"

Now the swimsuit issue's editor, M.J. Day, has branded Kelly a "bully" for her comments, telling the People Every Day podcast that Osaka had done "nothing wrong."

"Well, first of all, we did that shoot back in December of 2020," Day told host Janine Rubenstein, explaining that Osaka had posed for the photos months before revealing her mental health struggles.

Day—who also posted on her Instagram Story to tell Kelly to "direct your vitriol somewhere else"—went on: "It's such bullying and it's so unnecessary, and this woman did nothing wrong.

"I'm like, 'You know what, you're journalists. How about you do your job and you fact check instead of jumping all over this woman for attention?'"

Kelly's comments about the tennis star are "part of the problem" in conversations surrounding mental health, Day said.

She added: "How about we do our due diligence and make sure we know what the reality of a situation before we come for people.

Megyn Kelly and Naomi Osaka
Megyn Kelly (L) has been branded a "bully" by the editor of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, after she criticized Naomi Osaka's (R) appearance on the cover. John Medina/Getty Images/Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

"It broke my heart to see someone who is really living her life for the betterment of others while also trying to pursue her own passion, which is tennis and fashion," added Day. "Let her live. Let her make decisions for herself that protect her own wellbeing. It's at no cost to anyone."

Osaka also fired back at Kelly, writing in a since-deleted tweet: "Seeing as you're a journalist I would've assumed you would take the time to research what the lead times are for magazines, if you did that you would've found out I shot all of my covers last year. Instead your first reaction is to hop on here and spew negativity, do better Megyn."

Kelly responded by sharing a screenshot of a notification that Osaka had blocked her, as she tweeted: "Poor @naomiosaka blocked me while taking a shot at me (guess she's only tough on the courts).

"She is apparently arguing that she shot her many covers b/4 publicly claiming she was too socially anxious to deal w/press. Truth is she just doesn't like Qs she can't control. Admit it."

In an op-ed for Time magazine, which was published in July, Osaka said her decision to pull out of the tournaments was "never about the press."

"I'll say it again for those at the back: I love the press; I do not love all press conferences," wrote Osaka, who argued that athletes should be permitted to take breaks from press obligations without facing the risks of fines or other sanctions.

In a May statement announcing her decision not to participate in press conferences at the French Open, she said: "We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me."

She added: "I've watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well. I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they're down and I don't understand the reasoning behind it."

Osaka was threatened with expulsion and fined $15,000 by the French Open for refusing to attend the post-game press conferences. She subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

The sportswoman, who has received public support from a host of stars since her statement in May, is expected to represent her home country of Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on Friday.

Newsweek has contacted representatives for Megyn Kelly and Naomi Osaka for comment.

Sports Illustrated editor M.J. Day
M.J. Day attends the launch of the 2019 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue on May 11, 2019, at Myn-Tu restaurant in Miami. The editor said Naomi Osaka posed for the 2021 cover last December. John Parra/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated