Nick Kyrgios battled Roger Federer Sunday at the Laver Cup in another installment of what’s become one of the most desirable matchups in men’s tennis. Before the match began in Prague, with no anthem of any country playing, he took a knee.
Throughout the day in the U.S., a slew of NFL players sat or kneeled during the pregame national anthem after President Donald Trump called on team owners to fire “son of a bitch” players who chose to demonstrate. (A WNBA also walked off for the anthem entirely.) At the time, it felt like Kyrgios’s gesture was one of solidarity with the American protestors, but after his 4-6, 7-6(6), 11-9 loss to Federer, he was asked (the admittedly narrow question) if his kneeling had anything to do with Donald Trump. His response: “Fuck no. Serious?” Kyrgios said it was a “personal tribute.”
“To clarify, he has been paying a tribute to his grandfather who passed away earlier this year, as well as his grandmother, both very important people to him,” a representative for Kyrgios told me today. “His gesture didn’t have anything to do with what’s been going on in the States this past weekend.” Kyrgios’s grandfather died in April; his grandmother died two years ago, as he wrote in a recent essay.
The choice of gesture might have been a tremendous coincidence, but Kyrgios’s views on the American president haven’t historically been kept much of a secret. In January, the outspoken Australian did press while wearing a T-shirt that depicted Trump with devil horns above the caption “Fuck Donald Trump.”
Kyrgios’s agent, Carlos Fleming at WME/IMG, also represents NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started kneeling during games in 2016 as a protest against the country’s oppression of black people.