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4 Apr, 2022 10:20

Serbian basketball team shuns pro-Ukraine gesture

Players from Crvena Zvezda refused to take the step prior to their game in Lithuania
Serbian basketball team shuns pro-Ukraine gesture

Serbian basketball team Crvena Zvezda refused to stand behind a Ukrainian flag emblazoned with the words ‘Stop War’ ahead of their EuroLeague against Lithuanian team Zalgiris on Sunday.

A large banner in Ukrainian colors was brought onto the court before the game got underway at Zalgiris Arena in Kaunas, with the home team and officials lining up behind it.

But players from Belgrade team Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) – including two Americans, Aaron White and Nate Wolters – noticeably snubbed the gesture, positioning themselves to one side and not touching the banner.

Once the game began there were loud whistles for the Crvena Zvezda team while chants of “Glory to Ukraine” and “F**k you Serbia” were heard from Zalgiris fans. Home supporters also brandished NATO flags.  

Serbian basketball team shuns pro-Ukraine gesture

Crvena Zvezda’s American star White tweeted afterwards that the team had been told “not to touch the flag” but reiterated he was staunchly against the Russian attack on Ukraine and “want[s] peace in our world.”

But Serbian star Luka Mitrovic questioned why the taunts directed at Crvena Zvezda players during the match, including the waving of Ukrainian and NATO flags, were not covered in the media.

“And what about this?” the 29-year-old is said to have asked on social media.

Zalgiris went on to win the game in overtime, with Lithuanian star Paulius Jankunas thanking fans afterwards for supporting the home team and Ukraine.   

“We played against a team from a country that sees the situation differently. I don’t want to stir things up, they live in one world, we live in another. I think we see this situation more realistically,” he claimed.

“Well done to the fans for showing the position of all of us, thank you to them.”


The EuroLeague announced at the end of February that it was suspending all Russian teams due to the military operation in Ukraine, while basketball governing body FIBA banned all Russian teams and officials from international competitions soon afterwards.

The sanctions are part of sweeping measures taken by a host of sporting federations to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes following a recommendation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Russia and its athletes received support from the Crvena Zvezda sporting family before Sunday’s basketball clash in Lithuania.

Crvena Zvezda football fans unveiled a banner ahead of their UEFA Europa League match with Glasgow Rangers in Belgrade on March 17, listing a host of US and NATO military campaigns from recent decades along with the message “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

After the likes of UEFA and German football club Schalke severed their sponsorship deals with Russian energy giant Gazprom, Crvena Zvezda director Zvezdan Terzic said they have no intention of doing so.

“We are outraged,” said Terzic of the bans handed out to Russian athletes. “We went through this in 1992. There is anti-Russian hysteria in Europe, politics is unnecessarily interfering in sports.

“We sympathize with the Ukrainian people and the terrible civilian casualties, but the Russian people are close to the Serbs and always will be.

“Russia is a power that has always been on the Serbian side,” added the director.