"Why bring up skin color? Why try & tarnish Novak Djokovic’s name?": Ann Coulter criticizing Serb's tribute to Kobe Bryant at 2023 US Open angers fans

Novak Djokovic (L) and Kobe Bryant (R)
Novak Djokovic (L) and Kobe Bryant (R)

American author Ann Coulter's criticism of Novak Djokovic's tribute to Kobe Bryant at the 2023 US Open angered tennis fans online.

Djokovic defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 to secure his record-extending 24th Grand Slam. Following his win, the Serb, in a touching tribute to the late basketball icon Bryant, donned a custom-made t-shirt featuring a picture of himself alongside Bryant.

The t-shirt was adorned with the words "Mamba Forever" - a nod to the basketball legend's nickname, "Black Mamba". The number 24 was also printed on the shirt, which holds dual significance as both Kobe Bryant's jersey number and Djokovic's total number of Grand Slam title victories.

During the trophy presentation ceremony, the Word No. 1 shared the reason behind his choice to wear the t-shirt. He explained that he chose to wear it because Bryant was a "close friend" and someone he "relied on the most."

"Kobe was close friend, we chatted a lot about the winners' mentality, when I was struggling with injury and trying to make my comeback, work my way back to the top of the game. He was one of the people that I relied on the most," he said.

American conservative media personality and author Ann Coulter recently published an article on her website criticizing Novak Djokovic's tribute to Kobe Bryant, calling it "absurd".

"Congratulations, Novak! You had a black friend. And now that he's gone, there's only the memory of having once had a black friend," Coulter wrote. "The whole production was so 'absurd', it seemed like a Borat sketch of a vulgar foreigner who'd never met a black person."

This sparked backlash from tennis fans who took to social media to express their disapproval.

One fan argued that there was no justification for Coulter to "bring up skin color" and "tarnish" Djokovic's reputation, as he was simply honoring the memory of a friend.

"What on Earth is this?? He was honouring the memory of a friend who passed away & who used to have such an important part in his life. Why bring up skin color? Why try and tarnish Novak’s name? This is just ridiculous & frankly, super embarrassing for you," a fan posted on X (formerly Twitter).

Another fan pointed out that Coulter had misconstrued Djokovic's victory speech, turning it into a "race issue" instead of acknowledging it as a heartfelt tribute to his "friendship" with Bryant, which had been a source of strength during "rough patches" in his career.

"You've totally taken it out of context. Why is it always a race issue. Theirs was a friendship that helped him get through rough patches in his career. Making a tribute on his 24th GS win was fitting," the fan posted.

Here are a few more reactions from tennis fans:

"Novak Djokovic is my guy" - When Kobe Bryant talked about his friendship with the Serb

US Open 2023
US Open 2023

In an interview with ESPN during the 2019 US Open, Kobe Bryant named Novak Djokovic as his favorite player over Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He stated that the Serb was his "guy", citing their personal relationship as one of the determining factors.

"Well, Novak's my guy. We have a relationship. We've had a relationship for a long time," Bryant said.

Bryant also revealed that he and Novak Djokovic discussed their age and strategies for adapting their playing styles to compete with newer, quicker, and younger players.

"When you are playing against players who are quicker and younger, you've got to study them to understand what those tendencies are so you can put yourself in those positions before that shot ever comes. So, it's a lot of preparation. Me and Novak talked about it a lot, quite at length," Bryant said.

How did Novak Djokovic meet Jelena Ristic? All about the most admired couples in tennis

Quick Links

App download animated image Get the free App now