The Kosovan Olympic Committee (KOC) has requested that Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic face disciplinary action from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In response to the bloody skirmishes in Kosovo, Djokovic wrote on a TV camera lens at the French Open on Monday: “Kosovo is the [heart symbol] of Serbia. Serb: “Stop the violence.”
The KOC said that Djokovic’s message “breached the fundamental principle of the IOC charter on the point of political neutrality and involved yet another political statement in sport” in a letter sent to the IOC by KOC President Ismet Krasniqi.
Starting his French Open campaign on a victorious note, Novak Djokovic ties Roger Federer’s record.
Djokovic’s agent has been contacted by CNN for comment.
The Kosovo Organization for Cooperation (KOC) asserted that Djokovic “yet again promoted the Serbian nationalists propaganda and used the sport platform to do so,” increasing “the level of tension and violence between the two countries, Kosovo and Serbia.”
Kosovo, which separated from Serbia in 2008, has seen tensions increase over the past week. After ethnically Albanian mayors were elected in northern Kosovo, a region predominately populated by Kosovo Serbs, in April elections that Kosovo Serbs had boycotted, there were skirmishes with protesters on Monday.
At a news conference this week, Djokovic extended on his statement in Serbian, saying: “This is the least I could have done. I believe it is my duty as a public person, regardless of what sector, to offer assistance.
“I feel compelled to lend my support to our people and to all of Serbia, especially as the son of a guy born in Kosovo. I do not know what the future holds for Kosovo and the Serbian people, and I believe that many others also do not either, but in moments like these, it is important to show solidarity and togetherness.
Djokovic’s use of the phrase “entirety of Serbia” echoes the Serbian government’s position, which continues to view Kosovo as a part of its territory and has not declared the region independent.
If no action was taken against Djokovic, Krasniqi sounded the alarm that it would “set a dangerous precedent that sport can be used as a platform for political messages.”
“I respectfully urge the IOC to react within its framework and requests to the ITF to follow the principles governed by the Olympic Charter and investigate on this matter by opening a disciplinary proceedings against the athlete,” he continued.
The ITF confirmed receiving a letter from the Kosovo Tennis Federation and referred it to the appropriate Grand Slam authorities, according to a statement provided to CNN.
“The Grand Slam rulebook, which is overseen by the appropriate organizer and regulator, sets the guidelines for player behaviour at a Grand Slam event. Political remarks are not prohibited by this clause.
The IOC informed CNN that the appropriate grand slam organization oversees and sets the regulations for the French Open.
“The players are under the control of the IOC only during the Olympic Games,” it stated.
In the second round of the French Open on Wednesday, Djokovic will face Márton Fucsovics of Hungary.