Volleyball player suspended over racist gesture during match
A Serbian professional volleyball player was suspended after being caught making a racial gesture during a match against Thailand on June 1, CNN reports.
Sanja Djurdjevic reportedly grabbed her eyes and stretched them outwards mid-match while competing against the Asian country.
The Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) Disciplinary Panel Sub-Committee, which imposes sanctions on FIVB players, suspended Djurdjevic for two games following the incident. Additionally, the Serbian women's national volleyball team was fined, according to a statement. CNN notes the fine is equivalent to $22,000.
"The FIVB is committed to fostering understanding, solidarity and unity against all forms of discriminatory behaviour," the FIVB wrote in the statement addressing the penalties brought against Djurdjevic. "The FIVB will continue to work tirelessly with all of its National Federations to ensure that these values are reflected across the whole community."
Djurdjevic has since apologized for making the gesture, posting a message to her now-deactivated social media accounts, according to CNN.
"I am aware of my mistake and I immediately after the match apologized to the whole Thailand team," she wrote.
Djurdjevic added, "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."
A member of the Thai volleyball team later shared a video to Instagram suggesting all was well between the team and Djurdjevic. The Thai player can be seen putting her arm around Djurdjevic as she blows kisses to the camera.
The incident occurred as anti-Asian rhetoric has grown around the world over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China, leading to U.S. lawmakers passing anti-hate crime legislation.