There were cheers and tears when Coco Gauff, just 19, won the U.S. Open women’s tennis title at Arthur Ashe Stadium last month, her first major. But some climate protestors who think democracy is for losers nearly ruined it, creating a 49-minute delay by staging a disruptive intrusion in which one glued his bare feet to the ground. Do they really think this wins them points with the public?
According to the New York Times:
“The protest confused fans, television commentators and the players themselves, who were trying to understand what the group was protesting and why the match had been delayed so long. When play stopped, Gauff, the eventual winner, was leading, 6-4, 1-0. Both players left the court.”
Forty-nine minutes is a very long time when you’re in the groove, warmed up and making the plays you know you can. Forty-nine minutes to shuffle around, stretch, keep active but not wear yourself out, and stay focused but not to the point of mental exhaustion either. Especially when you’re on the brink of the greatest triumph of your career after a period of difficulty and disappointment. Why should she have been subjected to it? Or the fans?
It’s not as though the crowd hasn’t heard of climate change. Many are, no doubt, in favour of climate action. But if they’re already convinced why annoy them? As for those who are not, will this selfish stunt win them over? Hardly.
According to the Times:
“Given the history of similar protests at tennis matches, Gauff told reporters after the match that she had a feeling there would be a protest at the U.S. Open. Gauff said she didn’t know exactly what the protesters were calling for, but added that she believes in climate change.”
So why derail her achievement, or try to? Especially since Gauff’s meteoric rise had apparently stalled earlier this year, a loss here caused by a disruption might have been a career-disrupting trauma. Fortunately she held it together and hung on to win the second set narrowly, by 7-5, and with it the match. But as the Times story went on, “‘I think there’s things that we can do better,’ Gauff said. ‘But I prefer it not happening in my match.’”
NBC wrote that “Extinction Rebellion claimed credit for the protest. It used the slogan ‘no tennis on a dead planet’ to call for an end to fossil fuels.” But lots of people love tennis, and went to a lot of trouble and expense to watch what turned out to be an inspiring result, as her victory against Muchova sent Gauff into a final where she got squashed in the first set by the world’s top-ranked woman then fought back grittily to win her first-ever Grand Slam trophy. And the protestors had absolutely no right to try to spoil it for them, or the competitors, with a slickly-marketed slogan-ready tantrum over not being able to make everybody do what these protestors want them to whenever they want them to do it without the tedious necessity of winning elections or changing public opinion.
So listen up, soup-throwing extremity-gluing nonsense-spouting brats of all ages: You live in a free society with a working, if messy, self-governing democracy. You can vote for climate action; you can schedule your own events; you can write letters to the editor or opinion pieces in newspapers. You can blog, network and change your own lifestyle. But get the heck off the court unless you’ve got a massive serve, a wicked backhand, and the endurance and heart of a champion.