A Serbian volleyball player has been banned for two matches after making a racist gesture during a game against Thailand last week.
Sanja Djurdjevic was shown on camera using her fingers to pull her eyes into a “slanty” shape that is sometimes used by Caucasians to signify a “Chinaman”, causing outrage from fans online.
The player has since apologised along with the Volleyball Federation of Serbia, who described the incident as a “simple misunderstanding”.
The federation has also been fined over US$22,000 and the money will be donated to “a cause tackling discriminatory behaviour and/or to fund educational programmes on cultural sensitivity for the global volleyball family”, the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) announced on Tuesday.
Djurdjevic will now miss her team’s upcoming matches against Belgium and Canada at the women’s international volleyball tournament.
She made the gesture during a match in Italy on June 1, prompting thousands to sign a petition calling for her to be disciplined for her actions.
“We apologise sincerely to the Thailand team, people of Thailand and to all of you affected by this,” the federation wrote on Facebook.
“Please don’t blow this out of proportion! Sanja is aware of her mistake and she immediately apologised to the whole Thailand team. She only wanted to show her teammates ‘let’s start playing defence like them now’, she didn’t mean any disrespect.”
The incident comes amid a rise in anti-Asian rhetoric and attacks on Asian people since the coronavirus pandemic began last year.
In January, a Starbucks branch in Dublin, Ireland, was ordered to pay compensation to a customer of Thai heritage after an employee drew “slanty” eyes on her cup.
The Workplace Relations Commission found Suchavadee Foley was racially harassed under the Equal Status Act.
Foley attempted to give a shortened version of her name at the counter as she made her order so it could be written on the cup. The barista serving her drew a smile and what was referred to in the hearing as “slanty” eyes on the cup as a way of marking it as Foley’s cup.
Foley said she was Irish, that she and her parents had moved to Ireland from Thailand when she was five or six, and she felt offended and demeaned by the incident and that she had been racially abused.
“This was not a drawing of the complainant, but a sketch of one part of her and one clearly associated with race,” the adjudication officer said.
The barista serving Foley, who was from Brazil and gave evidence through an interpreter, said she had drawn a smiley face on the cup “as she thought the complainant was glamorous”.
She had been working at the branch for about a month when the incident happened and said she had been “trained to be nice”.
The employee said she no longer drew on cups, unless a child was looking for a birthday-related drawing.