A semifinal tennis match in the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City, New York, was delayed by nearly 50 minutes on Thursday evening due to an interruption by climate protesters.
Three of the four demonstrators were removed from the stands immediately after standing up and appearing to shout “End Fossil Fuels” at the beginning of the second set, which featured U.S. player Coco Gauff and the Czech Republic’s Karolína Muchová. One protester glued his bare feet to the floor where he was standing, requiring extra security and medical personnel to remove him safely and with minimal harm.
The protest group Extinction Rebellion took credit for the interruption. One of the protesters clarified that the demonstration wasn’t directed toward the players themselves, and pointed out that the U.S. Open had corporate sponsors that were contributing to the climate crisis.
“We are not trying to harm the athletes in any way. We have nothing against the sport,” a man named Ian, one of the four demonstrators, told The Associated Press about the incident. “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.”
According to Extinction Rebellion’s website, the group’s demands for action include governments around the world declaring a climate and ecological emergency, as well as committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
Both Gauff and Muchová left the arena temporarily during the delay, unsure of how long it would take for the match to resume. Forty-nine minutes after the initial interruption began, play was allowed to resume, and Gauff won the match, advancing to the U.S. Open final.
After the match, Gauff discussed the protesters’ actions, explaining that she held no ill feelings toward the demonstration.
“I believe in climate change. I don’t really know exactly what they were protesting. I know it was about the environment. I 100% believe in that,” she said, adding that she “wasn’t pissed at the protesters” and had expected a demonstration to take place, as protests have occurred in recent tennis tournaments.
“I had a feeling it was going to happen this tournament. It happened in the French Open, it happened in Wimbledon. So, you know, following the trend, it was definitely going to happen here,” Gauff said.
“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,” Gauff went on, adding:
Obviously, I don’t want it to happen when I’m winning…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.
Gauff isn’t alone in her beliefs about climate change — polling shows that most Americans believe that the climate crisis is real, a view that is backed by the vast majority of climate scientists.
A USA Today/Ipsos poll from July indicates that around one in two Americans had experienced an extreme weather event within a month of the question being asked. That number is likely higher now, as incidences of extreme heat, hurricanes, wildfires and other weather events have increased in the months since, with the summer of 2023 deemed the hottest on record, according to climate scientists.