Coco Gauff is known for taking the tennis court by storm, breaking records with her advanced skill at a young age. But the star athlete is also known for using her voice to defend what’s right. She’s spoken out against anti-LGBTQ laws in her home state of Florida, demanded racial justice at a Black Lives Matter rally, and recently confronted the umpire at a U.S. Open match for treating her unfairly.
But according to Gauff, these instances are no big deal compared to the challenges her grandmother, Yvonne Lee Odom, faced when she became the first Black student to attend Seacrest High in Florida. In a press conference after her recent quarterfinals win, Gauff said her grandmother serves as her inspiration to speak her mind on and off the court. “She’s the sole, or one of the main, reasons why I use my platform the way that I do and why I feel so comfortable speaking out,” Gauff said about her grandmother.
“For those who don’t know, she was the first Black person to go to what was then called Seacrest High School. That happened, like, six months after Ruby Bridges did her integration. She had to deal with a lot of…racial injustice.” Odom integrated the school in 1961, when she was 15 years old. As a result of her grandmother’s experience, Gauff said the instances when she speaks out seem easy.
“For her to go through what she did during that time [makes me think that] putting out a tweet or saying a speech is so easy compared to that,” Gauff said. “That’s why I have no problem doing the things that I do. She always reminds me that I’m a person first instead of an athlete.”