HENDERSON, Nev. – Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle Solomon Thomas, a mental health advocate, spoke out Friday in support of tennis star Naomi Osaka and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, both of whom recently pulled out of respective events due to mental health concerns.
“They are at the top level of all athletes, and for them to be able to have that strength and vulnerability to say, ‘Hey, I need to take care of myself,’ that is unbelievable strength and just unbelievable in general,” Thomas said. “People don’t understand the pressure that’s on those athletes. They legit have the weight of the world on their shoulders, especially in an individual sport.
“So, I feel like it’s extremely important for them to be talking about it up on the stage that they’re on and I think its huge that they’re doing that and I’m just very happy about that and happy to see the positive responses from people, and people supporting them.”
Thomas, who joined the Raiders this offseason after being the No. 3 overall pick of the 2017 draft by the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, has become a public voice of suicide prevention after the death of his sister in 2017.
Thomas, who is coming off an ACL tear that limited him to a career-low two games and no sacks, has had criticism leveled at him and he has also heard people ridiculing Osaka and Biles.
“All the negative critics, and everything you hear, that’s the stigma in mental health that we’re fighting,” he said. “That’s what we’re fighting every day. That’s why we’re talking. This is why athletes are talking. People are talking. Psychologists, therapists are all talking because of that stigma we’re fighting.
“Because people don’t understand that if it was an ankle injury, we wouldn’t be talking about it. But because it’s a mental health issue, we’re talking about it because people don’t understand how serious that can affect an athlete. How serious that can affect a person. So, for them to talk about it on the highest stage of the world is so huge and I’m just thankful for them talking out. I stand with them in every way and I’m very appreciative of their strength and vulnerability. That’s the definition of strength, if you ask me.”