The ‘Wakanda Forever’ Salute Has A Deeper Meaning For Players At Indian Wells
On Sunday Gael Monfils battled past John Isner in a two-and-a-half-hour tense clash at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. It was a gripping encounter, but the main talking point was what Monfils did immediately after the match.
Celebrating his place in the third round, the Frenchman crossed his arms and banged on his chest. He had become the latest high-profile athlete to celebrate with the ‘Wakanda Forever’ salute. An action adapted from the movie blockbuster Black Panther. A Marvel film that has been deemed a game changer in the entertainment industry for having a cast of mainly black actors.
World No.42 Monfils believes the ‘Wakanda Forever’ sign isn’t just a minor action. He believes it has wider implications for the black community.
“I think that movie is great, it’s great for the community, for our community, it means quite a lot. It’s not just a sign. It’s everything. It’s everything going on and definitely it’s a shout-out saying that I’m supporting the Black Panther’s community,” he said during his press conference on Sunday. “It’s a lot going on I think. It’s battling politics, everything you know for our community. I’m following, I have a close friend in France, he is actually really involved and every morning I read every post he does, every interview, his name is Claudy Siar and he’s from Guadeloupe.
“It’s the world in general. I’m not so much involved but sometimes I like to pay attention. When you have movies who help, who give belief and show strength, it’s good.”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 11 March 2018
Monfils is not alone in the praise. Earlier in the week America’s Sachia Vickery conducted the same celebration following her win over Garbine Muguruza. The parents of the 22-year-old are both from the African country of Guyana.
“I’m so obsessed with the movie. It’s taking over my life. I have seen it four times already. Literally, I’m obsessed. I have watched it twice here (in Indian Wells).” She told wtatennis.com.
“Actually, the girl who plays Shuri, she’s from Guyana, and that’s where my mom is from. I was just like so crazy to see that and the movie is just so awesome. I’m just obsessed with it right now.”
— Sachia Vickery (@SachiaVick) 9 March 2018
More than an action
Besides the cultural phenomenon of the Black Panther, it’s impact highlights something deeper in the world of tennis. In the 21st century racism continues to be an unwelcome threat. Last year Donald Young spoke to Ubitennis about receiving racist messages from the public. Something Monfils can also relate to.
“I have good and bad. Bad because basically every match I receive some racist comment and you can cross some racist person,” he explained.
“And then you can have the opposite like super-fans following you, in the street, in the shop, not far where you live. Both are weird a little bit but that’s the way our job is so we take it.”
Indian Wells is also a tournament that has been blighted in the past by racial allegations. On Monday, Serena Williams will take on her sister Venus during what is the 17th anniversary of an incident that lead to their lengthy boycott of the event.
Both sisters were set to play each other in the semifinals of the 2001 tournament. Minutes prior to the match, Venus pulled out due to injury. Leading to former player Elena Dementieva accusing their father, Richard of doing it on purpose. An allegation that was never proven. Amid the confrontation, both sisters said they were victims of racist chants from the crowd despite Serena going on to win the title.
“I literally didn’t even think about it. That’s, you know, totally gone out of my mind. First of all, 17 years ago seems like forever ago. Yikes.” Serena said about the upcoming meeting.
In February Serena treated a group of children from the youth group Black Girls CODE to a private screening.
Currently there are only two top 20 black players with both of those being on the women’s tour – Sloane Stephens and Venus.