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German basketball player urged to take legal action after being fired over coronavirus protest with athlete girlfriend

German basketball player urged to take legal action after being fired over coronavirus protest with athlete girlfriend
Basketball player Joshiko Saibou has been advised to take legal action against his former club Telekom Baskets Bonn after he was fired for attending a protest against ongoing coronavirus guidelines while not wearing a mask.

Saibou and his girlfriend, long jumper Alexandra Wester, took part in an August 2 demonstration where they were pictured not wearing face coverings or observing social distancing regulations, after which his contract with the team was terminated for "violations of the provisions of his current employment contract as a professional athlete."

The player's situation has since captured the attention of Athleten Deutschland (Athletes Germany), a group who oversee the rights of athletes in the country, who have said they are in touch with Saibou and his legal counsel with regard whether or not Telekom Baskets Bonn had the legal right to cancel the player's contract over the matter.

"Given what we currently know, it is doubtful whether the reasoning given by the Telekom Baskets fulfils the requirements for dismissal without notice," they said in a statement, DW reported. "It would be logical were Joshiko to make use of his rights and take legal action."

However, Athleten Deutschland have also distanced themselves from the specifics of Saibou's protest, saying that a player's right to free speech and expression should be protected – so long as it falls under constitutional parameters.

Defending their position Wolfgang Wiedlich, Telekom Baskets team president, said that that Saibou's actions directly contravened health and safety guidelines being implemented to protect the health of players and fans. 

"Therefore, we cannot be held responsible for a permanent risk of infection, such as that posed by Saibou, either to his colleagues in our team or to other BBL teams in competition," Wiedlich stated.

Saibou, along with his girlfriend, remain unrepentant, calling his punishment a "slap in the face for free speech," while Wester likened the guidelines which require her to wear as mask as being akin to slavery.

"You should understand that we athletes are not the slaves of modern times, but you are making us into them," she said, while also suggesting earlier this year that lawyers and doctors who campaign for human rights should be locked away in an "insane asylum."

Saibou has also been an outspoken critic of the guidelines going back several months, publishing a critique on social media in May in which he lambasted the public for 'blindly' following the guidelines.

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Wester's position on the issue, meanwhile, could threaten her representation in next summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo, with the German Athletics Association outlining the athletes who represent their country must watch what they say in the public forum.

"Every DLV athlete has to be a role model when it comes to politically motivated statements on controversial issues," they said.

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