American tennis player Sachia Vickery, ranked 100th in the world, defeated Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, ranked 3rd, last week in a tense match. Vickery celebrated the stunning upset and one of the biggest wins of her career so far with a familiar gesture: Black Panther’s “Wakanda Forever” salute.
Vickery isn’t the only athlete to do so. French tennis player Gaël Monfils also gave the crossed-armed salute after winning his match against Matthew Ebden. The decision to flash the “Wakanda Forever” salute points to the enduring impact of Marvel’s Black Panther film. In an interview with WTA Insider, Vickery spoke of her obsession with the movie: “It’s taking over my life. I have seen it four times already. Literally, I’m obsessed. I have watched it twice here. I may just keep watching it because it’s been working out so well for me.” Monfils told Sport360.com: “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.”
The critically acclaimed film, which premiered just under a month ago, has already crossed the $1 billion mark worldwide. The film has so far grossed $520 million domestically, making it the ninth-highest release ever. As it continues it reign over the box office, the “Wakanda Forever” salute is being spotted at other sporting events.
Soccer players Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba of Manchester United celebrated scoring a goal by flashing the salute last month. Kenyan rugby player Collins Injera did the same after scoring his 250th try.
This celebration of black excellence hasn’t been limited to just sporting events. Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman greeted co-star Daniel Kaluuya with the beloved salute, as Kaluuya and director Jordan Peele accepted the best feature award for Get Out at the Independent Spirit Awards.
There were fears the film couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. But with the Wakanda Forever salute being warmly embraced by British, American, and African stars, the film has done more than just met expectations, it’s become a cultural phenomenon uniting the global African diaspora.