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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | June 2, 2020

 
Coco Gauff

Three young voices have stepped to the fore to lead tennis in the aftermath of George Floyd's death. In a time of burning anger and rage, their youthful energy provides hope.

Photo Source: Mark Peterson/ #BlackoutTuesday

Let the blackout begin.

Since the death of George Floyd on May 25th, protests have rocked America and we have seen and felt the anguished cry of a suppressed minority at its boiling point; the pain, the agony, the sadness, the vulnerability and, yes, the hope that this time might finally be the time where tangible progress is made.

On social media Tuesday, the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday has taken over, and the same names who stepped to the front of the movement this week remain ensconced today.

Except now Coco Gauff, Naomi Osaka, Frances Tiafoe and others are surrounded by a sea of black on social media. Perhaps the movement has gone mainstream? In this case, with awareness the main goal, can that be a bad thing? Perhaps now is not the time to worry about being a bandwagon fan—come one, come all, even if you are late to fully comprehending the importance/necessity of this movement.




Naturally—polarized America being polarized America—the call for change is being met with some resistance in places. Looting is not the issue, nor are the presence of organizations that wish to profit off the turmoil, but there are those that want to steer this crisis in a certain direction. We have been here before, as a nation, splintered, and failed to sustain lasting change.

But today, the growth of the movement, and the considerable contributions made by young tennis players and—in a very positive development—(some) white tennis players, is helping the call grow louder.

It has been inspiring to see the young voices of our sport take a critical role in spreading the message. Coco Gauff asked, “Am I next?” Frances Tiafoe stated “Enough is Enough,” and Naomi Osaka called out indignities and shined a light on the story in her own impactful, creative way.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“Our Lives Begin To End The Day We Become Silent About Things That Matter” Martin Luther King Jr.  Thank you to everyone that joined us in this, it starts with each and every one of us. • • @serenawilliams @iamgaelmonfils @katadams68 @malwashington @kgmontjane1 @zackeveee @k1ng_2._0 @heatherwatson92 @jarmere @naomiosaka @sloanestephens @tennisdarian @eastpoint_jenkins @tsongaofficiel @asia.muhammad @coacho.g @r_bizzeee @donaldyoungjr @mcneil8970 @coreygauff @haileybaptiste @ymerjr @philsbrainparade @thechandarubin @michaelmmoh @sachiavick @kamaumurray @cocogauff @garrisonzina #tennisforequality #lovewins #itisbiggerthantennis • • Song: Glory (@johnlegend @common) Thank you for creating such an impactful piece of art. Special thank you to Brian Tsao (@the_general_tsao ) for helping with edits. • • @wta @atp @espn @usta @itf__tennis @shaunking @bleacherreport @theshaderoom @octagon

A post shared by Frances Tiafoe (@bigfoe1998) on



Many have followed suit. The decibel level of attention and energy has been so strong that many seem to have forgotten that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, in the nation where the pandemic has and continues to do its most damage.

Through all this tension and struggle, there is a collective voice emerging in tennis, and it mirrors what we see in society. Young souls are forming their thoughts and finding their voices as humans and agents of change, and as they do it they invigorate those who have been through it before and have grown tired of carrying the burden of it all.

It’s the same struggle, but a new energy comes from these young tennis activists. Tell them to stick to tennis and they will stick it to you! They are vulnerable, raw and inexperienced. They are flying, beautifully, by the seats of their pants. They are putting themselves out there not for themselves but for something larger than tennis, larger than sport, larger than America, larger even than black and white.

It’s an uplifting, powerful thing to witness. Tennis has some humanity coming up. Some intelligence, some passion, some fire.

How do you watch the full video that Tiafoe and Ayan Broomfield put together, with cameos from Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens, Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gauff, without crying? How does your heart not crash and burn when 16-year-old Gauff, clad in a black hoodie, raises her eyes to meet the camera defiantly? She holds the glare before her homemade video cuts to images of George Floyd and so many others who have needlessly died at the hands of police in America; immeasurable strength, vulnerability and power are in her eyes.


When Gauff asks the world: “Am I next?” she isn’t role playing. This is an honest question that black kids face in America.

And this is the question we face, together now. It isn’t “their” problem. It’s our problem. Thanks to a few courageous souls, more of us can now recognize the dysfunction from the inside, in all its systemic brutality, and the anguish and fear that it causes, collectively. That is what we see on our streets, in our America.

Tennis should be proud of the bravery we’ve seen in its young leaders, and comforted as the sport looks forward to a future of standing together and representing one another with dignity. Whether it be social justice, pay equality, LGBTQ+ rights or freedom of the press.

That is why we stand united on #BlackoutTuesday and hope for a brighter future, and change that lasts.

 

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