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Three environmental protesters, including one who glued his bare feet to the floor, held up a semi-final match at the US Open on Thursday night for roughly an hour as they yelled “end fossil fuels.”
The two men and one woman wore shirts emblazoned “end fossil fuels” and the logo of the extremist “Extinction Rebellion” group as they chanted during the second set of the match between American Coco Gauff, 19, and Karolína Muchová, 27, from the Czech Republic. Gauff had won the first set and was leading in the second 1-0 when play was halted; she ultimately won the match win 6-4, 7-5.
“We are not trying to harm the athletes in any way,” one of the protesters claimed later. “We have nothing against the sport, but we are really trying to draw attention to an issue here that there will be no tennis left for anybody in the world to enjoy.”
Gauff, frustrated by the protesters, asked officials why they were “negotiating” with them, snapping it was like it was a “hostage situation.” Brad Gilbert, her coach, shouted to the umpire “This is a joke,” according to the Daily Mail. The crowd booed the protesters, and yelled at them as they were taken away by the New York Police Department, “You suck!” and “F*** you!” The crowd cheered the NYPD when they arrived.
“It was a bit challenging, because, you know, it’s not like a typical delay,” Gauff said after the match. “So we didn’t know how long it was going to take. We were talking to the supervisor and security. You know, they could say it could be as quick as five minutes or as long as an hour. It was tough to figure out if we stay warm or conserve energy. … But, you know, it’s life. It happens. So I just try my best to keep the momentum that I had going from winning the first set and the first game.”
“I always speak about preaching about what you feel and what you believe in,” Gauff continued. “It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it. Obviously I don’t want it to happen when I’m winning, up 6-4, 1-0, and I wanted the momentum to keep going. But hey, if that’s what they felt they needed to do to get their voices heard, I can’t really get upset at it.”
“I just wanted to get off the court and then keep myself little warmed up and not just to stand there,” Muchová commented.
“I had a feeling it was going to happen this tournament,” Gauff concluded. “It happened in the French Open, it happened in Wimbledon. So, you know, following the trend, it was definitely going to happen here. I just was hoping it wasn’t in my match, and honestly I thought we made it through. … But it is what it is. I think that, you know, the moments like this, yeah, are history-defining moments. Like I said, I prefer it not to happen in my match, but I wasn’t pissed at the protesters. I know the stadium was because it just interrupted entertainment.”