March 15, 2024

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Sports Minister: Djokovic Must Abstain from Political Messages at French Open

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Sports Minister: Djokovic Must Abstain from Political Messages at French Open

French Sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said Wednesday that Novak Djokovic’s political message about Kosovo was “not appropriate” and warned the former top-ranked Serb player, he shouldn’t repeat it.

Speaking on TV station France 2, Oudea-Castera said French Open director Amelie Mauresmo spoke with Djokovic and his entourage to insist on the principle of “neutrality” on the field of play.

“When it comes to defending human rights and bringing people together around universal values, a sportsperson is free to do so,” she said. But Oudea-Castera added that Djokovic’s message was “militant, very political” and “must not be repeated.”

Djokovic has come under fire from Kosovo’s tennis association after commenting on the clashes in northern Kosovo between ethnic Serbs and police and NATO peacekeepers.

After a first-round victory in Paris on Monday, Djokovic wrote in Serbian on the lens of a courtside TV camera: “The center of Serbia is Kosovo. Stop the violence.”

Kosovo’s tennis federation said Tuesday that Djokovic’s comments were “deplorable” because he was stoking tensions between Serbia and Kosovo.

The 2008 declaration of independence by the former province of Serbia, Kosovo, is not accepted by Belgrade. The majority of people in Kosovo are of the ethnic Albanian race, but the region’s northern border with Serbia is home to a restless Serb minority.

On Wednesday, Djokovic—who has 22 Grand Slam victories—will compete at Roland Garros in the second round.

Speaking to reporters in Serbian, Djokovic said Monday that he thought what he wrote on the TV camera was “the least I am conscious of my obligation as a public figure… as well as a son of a man who was born in Kosovo.”

Without mentioning Djokovic by name, French Open organizers indicated in a statement issued Tuesday that no rules had been broken, saying: “Discussions about world news stories occasionally spill over into the tournament, which is understandable.”


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