Dear FIVB: Discipline Sanja Djurdjevic and the Serbian Volleyball Team for Racist Gesture
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Racism of any kind or measure cannot be tolerated in our society. 2020 has shown us again how dangerous that can be with the exponential rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes.
Sanja Djurdjevic made a racist slanted-eye gesture during a match against the Thai volleyball team during an official match and we need FIVB to do their job and discipline their players when FIVB's Rules of the Game (Section 21.2) and Disciplinary Regulations (references no racial discrimination in Section 3.1.2) are violated.
The Serbian Volleyball team's statement included an apology, but then asked people "don’t blow this out of proportion! Sanja is aware of her mistake and she immediately apologized to the whole Thailand team."
An apology is the bare minimum as a human being. But Djurdjevic and the National Volleyball Team represent their country in an official sport with official FIVB rules and those rules need to be upheld to maintain credibility and set the standard for the world. 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, they used it on their website to announce the win (since replaced).
Sports happens on a global stage with millions of people watching 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 to maintain their standards and integrity.
The 2008 Spanish Basketball Team did it. The 2017 Serbian Volleyball Team did it. Coach Sergio Busata of the 2019 Russian Volleyball Team did it. FIVB banned him for 3 games, but only after the Korea Volleyball Association filed a formal complaint.
But this sets a precedent and FVIB needs to be proactive and do its job without requiring complaints from member nations before they take disciplinary action that hurts not only the sport, but people.
This past year, we have seen again how words and microaggressions can build up over years to create our current hateful environment where people are being attacked and murdered based on how they look.
Allowing disrespect towards any person or group of people because of their race, ethnicity, religion, and visual differences (no matter how small the action may seem) will only encourage the current racist environment in which Asian, Black, and Brown people are targeted in sport and in the world.
FIVB and IOC, please do your part to set the human standard for how people and your athletes should treat each other.
Ignorance and discrimination breed hate and violence and we have to stop it at the source.
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