By Ken Reed

Young tennis star Coco Gauff ended the interview following her semifinal victory at the French Open with a message about the epidemic of gun violence and school shootings in America.

“Peace,” wrote Gauff on a camera lens. “End gun violence.”

“I think now athletes are more, I feel like more fine with speaking out about stuff like this,” she said later.

“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.’ 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.

“I think if anything, sports gives you the platform to maybe make that message reach more people.”

Some sports fans get angry if sports figures talk about anything besides their particular sport, especially those who agree with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham who said of LeBron James, “Shut up and dribble” when James was speaking out on social justice issues.

That’s silly. Why should athletes be the only citizens who can’t share their opinions on socio-cultural issues?

As sports and culture writer Craig Calcaterra says:

“Say that fan is an accountant. How would they feel if someone walked up to them and said ‘I don’t want to hear anything from you except accounting. And if you start talking about what you read today or what you’re thinking about the world I find it illegitimate.’

“We would never do that to a person. I think it’s crazy that we do that with sports. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to engage it. But to tell someone that they can’t have an opinion on something because they are an athlete and all we value them for is their ability to dribble, or to hit or to throw, I find that to be a completely illegitimate position.”

Well said.

Sure, Coco Gauff and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr aren’t experts on gun violence, mass shootings or gun safety, but if they can use their sports platforms to bring greater awareness to a terrible problem, I’m all for it.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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