Jean’s Broward lawyer says the contract is legal and binding.
As she prepares for the Miami Open, things aren’t looking so sunny in the Sunshine State for tennis champion, Naomi Osaka.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Osaka’s former coach, Christophe Jean, is suing the tennis superstar and her family for an unpaid contract deal.
Leonard Francois moved to South Florida with his family in 2006 in hopes to flourish his two daughters, Naomi and Mari, bourgeoning tennis career.
From 2006 Francois would travel throughout South Florida with his family, gaining free—sometimes bartered—training for his daughters, despite their lack of financial resources. A blueprint the father inherited from Venus and Serena Williams‘ journey to tennis stardom.
Osaka’s family was turned away by many coaches due to their lack of funds. A handful of coaches settled with the terms—mainly because they knew the family simply could not afford it. However, several coaches, although they remained quiet, were frustrated at the thought of working for free.
Among those dissatisfied with the terms was Christophe Jean, whom at first was reluctant to take on the non-profit task.
But after two months of asking from Francois, Jean finally gave in and agreed to train the sisters. François would do minimal work around the court in exchange for the free services his daughters were receiving.
In March of 2011, Jean and Francois signed a one-page contract. This contract is now Exhibit A in the lawsuit Jean filed against Francois and the sisters.
“Both parties agree on a fixed fee of twenty percent or monetary agreement on behalf of Marie (sic) Osaka and Naomi Osaka,” a central clause reads.
According to Jean’s Broward lawyer, the contract is legal and binding. Osaka’s father signed the contract. The names of the sisters are written in block type.
However, Osaka’s New York lawyer, Alex Spiro wrote a statement saying:
“While it comes as no surprise that Naomi’s meteoric rise as an international icon and inspiration would lead to some false claim, this silly, imaginary contract that Naomi never saw or signed — which purports to give away part of herself at the age of 14 — is particularly absurd.”
Spiro is known for representing many celebrities and NBA players.
Jean coached the sisters for two years. Telling SunSentinel, “five to six hours a day, six days a week. One day, they didn’t show up.” Jean called Francois, who said they couldn’t make it. The next day, they didn’t show up again. That was it.
Osaka, now 21, is ranked #1 in the world and beat her idol Serena Williams at the 2018 US Open.
According to the official WTA website, Osaka has made more than $10.8 Million during her career—not including endorsement deals.
The nature of this case is still ongoing and whether a parent could even offer such a deal on a minor is still up for debate.
Stay tuned for more information as it develops.