In her brief time on tour, Coco Gauff has shown an ever-expanding arsenal of weapons on the tennis court. Her blistering serve and exceptional foot-speed are likely to pace the WTA tour for years to come, but her most impressive asset mat be her unflappable poise under pressure. Last year, we saw that at Wimbledon and the US Open, among other tournaments where the teenager punched well above her weight. This year, it's come to the fore off the court.
On Wednesday evening, the 16-year-old Gauff delivered an impassioned speech against racial injustice, demanding change now to a crowd of peaceful protesters in front of Delray Beach City Hall.
“I think it's sad that I'm here protesting the same thing (my grandmother) did 50 years ago," Gauff said in her opening remarks.
As she's done so often, Gauff rose to the occasion, her eloquent words resonating with the Delray Beach community as well as many influential figures around the world. She has since received an outpouring of praise on social media.
Thank you, @CocoGauff, for using your platform to speak to both the young and the not so young about injustice.— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) June 4, 2020
We stand with you and the entire black community. #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/ISHXaToBG1
I believe we have a future leader, role model, and activist in @CocoGauff At the young age of 16, she is showing up in the fight against racial prejudice. She could champion human rights and still be a champion in tennis. I believe she can be an inspiration and do it all..❤️— Chris Evert (@ChrissieEvert) May 30, 2020
As a white European tennis player, it is not my place to hold big speeches. However, I feel like it is my duty to pledge allegiance and refer you to a young, fearless generation of tennis players represented by the likes of @naomiosaka @CocoGauff and @FTiafoe. I am with you.— Andrea Petkovic (@andreapetkovic) June 4, 2020
Thank you for being a girl that my daughter will learn from and look up to . I promise that we will keep on teaching our kids the right thing to do so that they can pass it on too. It all starts at home !— Kim Clijsters (@Clijsterskim) June 4, 2020
Wow, listen to the wise perspective of Coco Gauff. I’m amazed at how these young people have only been exposed to structural racism for a few years and they’re already TIRED of it. They demand change. In this case youthful impatience is a great thing. https://t.co/rSuozjalsx— J.A. Adande (@jadande) June 3, 2020
Coco, you are wise beyond your years. Thank you... for standing up, for your bravery, for your example, for your humanity. ✊???????????? #blacklivesmatter— Chanda Rubin (@Chanda_Rubin) June 4, 2020
In an effort to connect with her many younger fans, Gauff pointed to pop culture.
“If you listen to black music, if you like black culture, if you have black friends—this is your fight too.”
"Coco is clearly wise beyond her years," said Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of Black Popular Culture and Chair of the Department of African & African American Studies at Duke University.
"Her comments highlight the contradictions with young whites who consume so much black popular culture, but disconnect with the humanity of black artists and the communities that they come from."