French Open: Gauff names LeBron and Serena among inspirations after 'end gun violence' message

By Sports Desk June 02, 2022

Coco Gauff cited LeBron James, Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick and Naomi Osaka as her inspirations after the tennis star wrote "Peace, end gun violence" on a camera at the French Open.

The 18-year-old overcame Martina Trevisan in the semi-final at Roland Garros with ease, recording a 6-3 6-1 victory to book her maiden single's grand slam final appearance.

That made the world number 23 the youngest American female finalist in Paris since Monica Seles in 1991 and the youngest overall since Kim Clijsters in 2001.

Gauff has not dropped a set en route to the final, where she faces the in-form Iga Swiatek on Saturday, but much of her post-match focus was on the ongoings back in the United States.

The USA is still reeling from a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas just over a week ago in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.

In the wake of the tragedy, multiple high-profile sportspeople, including Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, have called for changes to gun laws in the USA, and Gauff joined that list on Thursday.

"It's important, just as a person in the world, regardless of tennis player or not," the teenage tennis star said. "I think for me it was just especially important just being in Europe and being where I know people globally around the world are for sure watching.

"I think that this is a problem in other parts of the world, but especially in America it's a problem that's, frankly, been happening over some years but obviously now it's getting more attention.

"But it's been an issue for years. For me, it's kind of close to home. I had some friends that were a part of the Parkland shooting [in 2018].

"I remember watching that whole experience like pretty much firsthand, seeing and having friends go through that whole experience. Luckily they were able to make it out of it. I just think it's crazy, I think I was maybe 14 or 13 when that happened, and still nothing has changed.

"I think that was just a message for the people back at home to watch and for people who are all around the world to watch. I know that it's probably not [going to] – hopefully it gets into the heads of people in office to change things."

Gauff suggested her post-match scribble on the television camera was not pre-meditated and instead came after seeing reports of four people being shot by a gunman in an Oklahoma hospital on Wednesday.

"I really didn't know what I was going to write even moments walking to the camera, and it just felt right in that moment and to write that," she added. "I woke up this morning and I saw there was another shooting, and I think it's just crazy.

"I know that it's getting more attention now. I definitely think there needs to be some reform put into place. I think now especially being 18 I've really been trying to educate myself around certain situations, because now I have the right to vote and I want to use that wisely."

Gauff joins a long list of athletes that are proactively using their platform and audiences to speak on matters they feel passionately about.

As for her inspirations, Gauff listed the likes of NBA star James, fellow tennis players Williams and Osaka, and NFL's Kaepernick, who popularised taking the knee to stand against police brutality and racism.

"I would say LeBron James, Serena, Billie Jean, Colin, the list goes on, Naomi, it goes on really about those issues," Gauff continued. "I think now athletes are more fine with speaking out about stuff like this.

"I feel like a lot of times we're put in a box that people always say, 'Oh, sports and politics should stay separate' and all this. And I say yes, but also at the same time I'm a human first before I'm a tennis player.

"If I'm interested in this, I wouldn't even consider gun violence politics; I think that's just life in general. I don't think that's political at all.

"So of course I'm going to care about these issues and speak out about these issues. When people make those comments, I'm not going to be an athlete forever.

"There is going to be a time when I retire and all this, and I'm still going to be a human. So of course I care about these topics. Sport gives you the platform to maybe make that message reach more people."

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