US tennis star Coco Gauff has said she wants to use her platform to call for the end of gun violence and urged for gun reform.
Following her semifinal victory at the French Open on Thursday to advance to her first grand slam singles final, the 18-year-old wrote on a nearby camera lens – as is tradition after a victory. But instead of just her signature, Gauff added “Peace End Gun Violence” with a picture of a heart.
After her 6-3 6-1 straight sets victory against Italy’s Martina Trevisan, the American explained that she hadn’t planned to write that message beforehand, but she wanted to express the “important” message.
“It’s important, just as a person in the world, regardless of tennis player or not. 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,” she said.
“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 for me, 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. 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. Hopefully, it gets into the heads of people in office to hopefully change things.”
Gauff’s message comes after a recent spate of mass shootings in the US.
In May, an 18-year-old gunman fatally shot 19 children and two adults at a elementary school in Uvalde, Texas before he was killed by law enforcement officers. Earlier in the month, 10 people were killed in a racially motivated mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo by a suspect in tactical gear who was livestreaming the attack.
On Wednesday, a shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma left five dead including the gunman.
On Thursday, US President Joe Biden issued a fervent appeal for stricter gun laws, including a ban on assault weapons, tougher background check laws and a higher minimum age of purchase.
Using platforms for change
Gauff explained that sports stars should use their platforms to make change, and that she’s learned a lot about having a voice from other high-profile athletes.
“Definitely, I would say LeBron James, Serena (Williams), Billie Jean (King), Colin (Kaepernick), the list goes on, Naomi (Osaka), it goes on really about those issues,” she said.
“I think now athletes are more, I feel like 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. But just in general, I think that I’m a human first. 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.
“I think, if anything, sports gives you the platform to maybe make that message reach more people.”
Gauff will face women’s world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in Saturday’s French Open final.