Here’s why tennis star Naomi Osaka filed motion to dismiss coach’s $2 million lawsuit

Attorneys representing tennis star Naomi Osaka and her family filed a motion with the Broward County Circuit Court on Monday demanding that a former coach’s $2 million lawsuit be dismissed.

Christophe Jean, a Pompano Beach-based tennis coach who worked with Naomi, now the world’s top-ranked player, and her older sister Mari, in their early teens filed a suit asking for $2 million. Jean claims that on Mar. 21, 2012, the sisters’ father, Leonard Francois, entered an agreement with him to pay Jean 20 percent for the siblings’ future earnings on “every tennis contract or monetary agreement” in exchange for free coaching.

The Osaka family’s attorneys say in their motion to dismiss that the alleged agreement between the coach and the girls’ father was invalid because the sisters were minors, 14 and 15 years old, at the time and had no knowledge of any financial dealings. It also says that the alleged agreement does not specify financial terms, is not legally binding and that Jean’s claim is “repugnant to Florida law and public policy,” noting that “Florida does not permit child athletes to sign away their lifetime earnings during their infancy.”

Osaka, a Boca Raton resident, is represented by Alex Spiro of the law firm Quinn Emanuel.

The Osaka motion states: “Plaintiff’s facially defective pleadings must be dismissed in their entirety. Any other result would permit a fired coach to exploit two minors who never bargained for the invalid deal he seeks to enforce...The alleged contract is voidable under Florida law because the Osakas were minors when Plaintiff allegedly entered into the deal. As Plaintiff alleges, the Osakas have terminated it, which was their right.”

Naomi Osaka, asked about the lawsuit during the recent Miami Open, said: “I’m not allowed to say anything.”

Osaka, 21, is of Japanese-Haitian heritage, has become a global star and has earned more than $10 million in prize money and signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike, Nissin noodles, Nissan Motors, Yonex rackets, Citizen watches and Shiseido cosmetics. Her sister, Mari, is a year older and plays on the second-tier pro circuit.

Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, NBA Playoffs, and has been the University of Miami basketball beat writer for 20 years. She was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in Miami.