For most Olympic athletes, they are congratulated when they come home, medal winner or not. It should always be an honor to represent one’s country in sports.
For Emma Meesseman and the Belgium women’s national basketball team, they encountered the exact opposite scenario after their team advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
All that said, I never expected a sportscaster, in 2021 to give sexist remarks on women’s basketball players like some bot-like trolls do to WNBA players, even off the air.
Earlier today, Belgian sportscaster Eddy Demarez, who works for Sporza, a Dutch language network, held a Facebook Live on the Belgian team’s Olympians as they returned to Brussels from Tokyo.
Demarez thought he was off mic when saying some comments in what seems to be a private conversation, but then he said a number of insults in Dutch which everyone watching the live feed heard:
Eddy Demarez, beste mensen ...— Andres (@AndresAlvar3z) August 7, 2021
-"Gepoept zal er niet geweest zijn, hé."
-"(Marjorie) Carpreaux, da's een manneke hé."
-"En Billie Massey. Ook wel the mountain genoemd. Allé, ebde die nu al 'ns tegoei bezien? Een kolos!" https://t.co/nkb3aVUYoJ
Some of the insults, translated into English include:
- Emma Meeste-man — In Dutch, the word meest (pronounced MAYST) means most. The word meeste (pronounced MAYST-UH) is an adjective. So Demarez meant to say that Emma is the most manly player on the team. I know we pronounce her name differently, but in Dutch and French as well, her last name is pronounced “May-suh-mahn” not “Mee-suh-man.”
- (Marjorie) Carpreaux, that’s a man — A remark at one of the Cats’ veteran guards.
- And Billie Massey, a/k/a “The Mountain.” So, have you already seen it? A colossus!” — A remark at one of the women’s team’s young forwards. Massey was part of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders camps in 2018 and was part of a recent youth European championship.
Demarez also took aim at Kim and Hanne Mestdagh, saying, “The Mestdaghs: One’s a lesbian, the other not.” He even claimed that all the players are gay except one. So you know, the only gay players whom I’m aware on Belgium’s women’s basketball team are Ann Wauters and Kim Mestdagh, who played for the Mystics in 2019. There may be more, and there may not be more. But that’s not the point. The point is that what Demarez said was sexist and homophobic, since he’s assuming something along the lines of “it’s the women’s basketball team. Therefore, they’re all gay until otherwise.”
After a major social media uproar within Belgium, Demarez gave a half-hearted PR release type of apology to the public and the Belgian Cats via VRT, the Dutch language Belgian public television authority, which oversees Sporza, claiming that he was in a euphoria over all of the athletes coming back from Tokyo. But it wasn’t enough for the VRT to suspend him from coverage for the time being.
Let’s say that the Belgian Cats are not pleased over the comments. Meesseman tweeted in Dutch, “Can I just really, REALLY not have it for awhile? Thanks.”
Kim Mestdagh posted an emoji puking and I don’t blame her!
Hanne wrote “Disrespectful, painful and demeaning. So great to be back home.” I assume the last sentence is sarcastic.
Respectloos, pijnlijk en denigrerend. Leuk thuiskomen zo.— Hanne Mestdagh (@HanneMestdagh) August 7, 2021
Wow, this is not the type of drama I was expecting for Meesseman and the Cats after coming home from Tokyo. Sure, they didn’t win a medal and it’s one thing to say her team choked, though I think Japan just had their number in the quarterfinals at the right time.
But man. These insults were definitely low blows that are more than simply worthy of the banhammer.