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‘It’s everything’: Black athletes are celebrating with ‘Wakanda Forever’ salutes

Gael Monfils celebrates a win and Wakanda. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Serena Williams isn’t alone.

The tennis star raved about the arrival of “Black Panther, and now other black athletes across the sports landscape have taken the film to heart by adopting the characters’ “Wakanda Forever” gesture, usually after a victory.

“Obviously, this is a huge moment for us, for black people,” Williams said before the premiere last month. “We’ve never had a superhero movie, so we’re so excited. I feel like I’ve waited my whole life for this.”

The trend has been especially obvious at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.

“I think that movie is great, it’s great for the community, for our community, it means quite a lot,” France’s Gael Monfils said Sunday, after his second time celebrating a victory with the salute. “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.”

“It’s a lot going on, I think. It’s battling politics, everything you know for our community,” Monfils went on. “I’m following. … 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.”

Will ‘Black Panther’ become the biggest superhero movie ever?

Sachia Vickery, an American player, used the same gesture to mark her upset of Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at Indian Wells.

“I’m so obsessed with the movie. It’s taking over my life. I have seen it four times already. Literally, I’m obsessed,” she told WTATennis.com. “I have watched it twice here. I may just keep watching it because it’s been working out well for me. Actually, the girl who plays Shuri [Letitia Wright], 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.”

It isn’t clear which athlete first used the gesture. Slate traces it back at least as far as Steve Mounie and Colin Quaner of Huddersfield Town in a Feb. 24 Premier League match, followed by Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba of Manchester United on Feb. 25.

And Titus O’Neil and Apollo brought it to WWE around the same time last month.

Since then, it has been catching on. Over the weekend, Collins Injera of Kenya thought it was the perfect way to celebrate scoring his 250th try at the World Rugby Sevens tournament.

Your turn, NCAA tournament teams.

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