It was interpreted as a protest against Donald Trump – but Aussie tennis star Nick Kyrgios has cleared the air.
Kyrgios knelt for about three seconds at the net ahead of his Laver Cup clash against Roger Federer on Sunday (European time), mimicking tens of NFL players who did likewise to show solidarity for former player Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem of the United States throughout last season, campaigning against what he saw as civil rights abuses.
Donald Trump deplored the protests while addressing a rally in Alabama at the weekend, calling those who staged them “sons of b–tches” and urging team managements to withdraw players who staged them.
But instead of curbing such protests, Trump’s rhetoric prompted an outbreak of them – more than 100 NFL players mimicked Kaepernick in games across the weekend.
Images of 22-year-old Kyrgios dropping to one knee in Prague quickly went viral, with many assuming it was in support of NFL players and their racial inequality protests.
However, Kyrgios rebuffed claims he had joined the protests, telling journalists afterwards when they quizzed him: “F––k no. Serious?”
“I’m doing that before most matches just to remember, you know, the two most important people that have passed away,” he said, referring to his late grandmother and grandfather.
“I just take a knee to remember those before I go out there and play.”
The Australian, playing for Team World, had a match point but ended up losing to 19-time grand slam winner Federer 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 11-9, with the Swiss star clinching the inaugural Laver Cup for Team Europe.
Kyrgios previously made headlines in January when he wore an anti-Trump T-shirt, which read, “F––k Donald Trump”.
Nick Kyrgios rocking the anti-Trump fashions after an exhibition in Sydney tonight. pic.twitter.com/7gytWZ8Oeu
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 9, 2017
Trump’s outburst in Alabama prompted swift condemnation from NFL team executives, the league commissioner, the players’ union, and the players themselves, who showed solidarity with on-field protests.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour,” Kaepernick said last year when igniting the protests.
Trump also ignited angry responses from the basketball world across the weekend after he rescinded NBA star Stephen Curry’s White House invitation in a series of tweets.
Curry and his Golden State Warriors teammates were due to be guests of the President after winning last season’s NBA title, as is tradition, but the team turned down the invitation, stating they will instead “celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion – the values that we embrace as an organisation.”
Trump’s rebuttal came after the fact and NBA legend LeBron James made sure everyone knew that, sending a Tweet that referred to Trump as a “bum”.
“U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going!” James wrote.