Four environmental activists caused a 50-minute delay at the U.S. Open women’s semifinal matchup between Coco Gauff and Karolina Muchova Thursday night.
“If we don’t disrupt, climate change will,” the protesters yelled from their seats in the upper row of the Arthur Ashe Stadium, in a video posted online by The New York Times.
The group chanted “end fossil fuels,” while others in the crowd booed in response and chanted “kick them out.”
Gauff struck an understanding tone while speaking to reporters after the match, which the 19-year-old won 6-4, 7-5.
“I always speak about preaching about what you feel and what you believe in. It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it,” she said.
“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,” she added. “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.”
A group called Extinction Rebellion stated they were behind the protest. One group member explained to The Associated Press that the U.S. Open has sponsorships with corporations that contribute to global warming.
“We are not trying to harm the athletes in any way,” the protestor said. 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.”
The protesters were escorted by security guards and police officers and taken into police custody.
Three protestors were removed with no further escalation, while one activist had his feet glued to the ground, according to The U.S. Tennis Association. The tennis organization said that they needed NYPD and medics to remove the person.
It is the latest climate protest at a major sporting event. Two Wimbledon matches were interrupted with protestors spraying orange graffiti on the grass. “Just Stop Oil” protesters also crashed the British Open golf championship in July.
With Gauff’s eventual victory Thursday, the young star will face Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, who defeated U.S.’s Madison Keys, in the final on Saturday.
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