Yesterday, there was national outrage in Belgium after Sporza commentator Eddy Demarez said homophobic and sexist insults at the women’s national basketball team in a hot mic during a Facebook Live as they were flying into Brussels from Tokyo. He was suspended by VRT, the Belgian Dutch-language public television broadcasting authority, which is the parent organization of Sporza because of the incident.
The team, through the Belgian Basketball federation issued a statement in Dutch and French on Sunday evening (or afternoon in D.C. time) on the incident, where they openly called for Demarez’s ouster.
Here are the highlights of that statement:
- The Cats are obviously not happy with it. The Federation is also considering further legal action, something BF commenter WhyNotTyler said isn’t implausible.
- The Cats and the federation are satisfied at the present time that VRT and Sporza suspended Demarez. However, they want him to resign voluntarily. If he refuses, they want VRT to terminate him.
- The team rejected an offer by Mr. Demarez to apologize via Zoom call. It’s partly because they just came back from Tokyo. But they also don’t want to waste their time on him since they’d rather be with friends and family before going abroad to professional leagues abroad in the coming weeks. The team didn’t feel like it was enough.
- The Cats are offering to work on a project with VRT and Sporza to promote gender equality and inclusiveness. They already did a project on racism with Washington Mystics forward Emma Meesseman as their spokeswoman. She wants to make these social awareness projects a permanent part of the Cats’ identity beyond the basketball court, not just as one-offs. (Note: Given that over 40 percent of Belgium is made of native French speakers, I assume the Cats would also work with RTBF, the Francophone equivalent of VRT.)
Meesseman also wrote the following toward the end of the statement which I will quote completely:
We worked towards this moment for years, we sacrificed everything and gave everything we had. Our dream has become reality but we wished for more. We know that fans are proud, and now we’ll try to be proud of ourselves, on the road we have all traveled together.
Physically, but especially mentally, we were empty when we arrived in Zaventem [the city where Brussels Airport is]. Mr. Demarez‘s disrespectful and hurtful words were a heavy blow that we just can’t take at the moment and they’ll be a stain on the peak of our careers. Fortunately, we are strong together as a team and fans. This is one of many examples of why we will continue to be committed to Equality. A new generation is coming, with the right values and with respect for each other!
Go Emma! We are behind you all the way!