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5 Apr, 2022 15:41

Ukraine message deemed appropriate by basketball bosses despite Serbian anger

Lithuanian team Zalgiris Kaunas are set to avoid any punishment from the EuroLeague for their message in support of Ukraine
Ukraine message deemed appropriate by basketball bosses despite Serbian anger

The decision from Lithuanian basketball team Zalgiris Kaunas to display a Ukrainian flag along with a message reading 'Stop War' won't see them face censure from EuroLeague chiefs, according to a report from RIA Novosti

Per a press release from the EuroLeague, Zalgiris Kaunas' decision to fly the Ukrainian flag ahead of a game against Serbian team Crvena Zvezda, who are better known as Red Star, doesn't contravene any of the established rules within the league and cannot therefore be considered offensive.

Ahead of the start of Sunday's game between the two clubs in Kaunas, Zalgiris stood side-by-side while the EuroLeague anthem was being played and subsequently displayed the yellow and blue flag, which had the words 'Stop War' written on it.

Crvena Zvezda players, by contrast, did not join in on the demonstration and were booed by the majority of the 15,000-strong crowd inside the Zalgirio Arena.

Representatives for Red Star later referred to the gesture made by Zalgiris as a politicization” of sport, after chants of “f**k Serbiaand “glory to Ukraine” were also heard during the game. Some  home fans are also said to have displayed NATO flags.  

“Should we ask ourselves today, in 2022, why in 1999, during the NATO aggression and the killing of thousands of innocent civilians and children, while the Zalgiris basketball players won this competition, they did not carry the banner 'Stop the aggression against Yugoslavia?' Crvena Zvezda said in a statement, demanding disciplinary action. 

However, EuroLeague chiefs didn't quite agree.

“EuroLeague Basketball encourages the freedom of expression of players and coaches, as long as any messages are presented with respect,” league bosses said in a statement to Russian outlet RIA. 

“The 'Stop the War' banner they displayed before [the game] cannot be considered offensive and is consistent with the views the league promotes on its platforms.”

Some of the Crvena Zvezda players said they were informed by their team not to participate in the protest.

“As a team we were told to not touch the flag, said Red Star's Aaron White, a United States national, who added he was against the conflict in Ukraine and want[s] peace in our world.

And after a tense game between the two rivals, it was the Lithuanian side who came out on top by a score of 103 to 98 after overtime.