After being caught on camera making a racist
gesture toward her Thai opponents, a Serbian volleyball
player has apologized.
After a Thai player failed to win a point, Sanja Djurdjevic pulled her eyelids apart to make a slant-eye gesture during the televised FIVB Volleyball Women
's Nationals League match in Italy
on Tuesday night.
The clip sparked outrage online, with the clip being shared alongside hashtags to stop Asian hate, a tagline created in response to a sharp increase in anti-Asian hate crimes
and harassment linked to the coronavirus pandemic
and racist rhetoric about its origins.
This is not the first time the Serbian team has sparked controversy with this gesture. In 2017, the team posed for a group photo with their eyes closed to celebrate securing Serbia's spot in the 2018 FIVB Women's World Championship, which would be held in Japan
I just wanted to inform you about THIS RACIST by Serbian player Sanja Djurdjevic @volleyballworld @ossrb https://t.co/CRPm1EQJ7B
— VNL (@5h4k3) June 1, 2021
In an Instagram
post, Djurdjevic apologized and then deactivated her account.
“I am aware of my error, and I immediately apologized to the entire Thailand
team,” Djurdjevic said, according to Vice News
and a screengrab shared by a Twitter
user. “I only wanted to address my teammates with the message: ‘now, we will start playing defense like them,’ I didn’t mean to disrespect anyone.”
“Of course, it was an unfortunate and unwise gesture on my part,” she continued, adding that she was sorry to people
all over the world who were “offended by this.”
“Many thanks to the Thailand team for their patience,” she said, before concluding.
Pleumjit Thinkaow, the Thai volleyballer who was allegedly the intended recipient of the gesture, responded to Djurdjevic's post with a forgiving message on Instagram.
The Volleyball Federation of Serbia issued an unusual apology
statement in which it asked the public not to exaggerate the incident.
The federation was "deeply saddened" by the "unfortunate gesture," according to the statement.
“We sincerely apologize to the Thailand team, the Thai people, and all of you who have been affected by this,” it said.
“But, please, don't blow this out of proportion! Sanja is aware of her error, and she immediately apologized to the entire Thailand team; she only wanted to show her teammates that "let's start playing defense like them now," and she didn't mean any disrespect.”
The apologies from Djurdjevic and Serbia's volleyball federation were insufficient to appease critics, who launched an online petition on Thursday demanding that the FIVB formally discipline the player for violating the FIVB's code of ethics, which prohibits racial discrimination.
“The FIVB already failed in 2017, when they not only did not discipline the Serbian Volleyball Team for the entire team posing with the slanted-eye gesture after a win, but they also used it on their website to announce the win (since replaced),” it said.
take place on a global scale, with millions of people watching and often viewing athletes as role models; when athletes and teams violate the most basic ethics of respect, governing bodies must set the right example to protect the disrespected and marginalized in order to maintain their standards and integrity.”