The Kosovan Olympic Committee (KOC) has called for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Tennis Federation (ITF) to take disciplinary action against Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic.
On Monday, Djokovic left a political message on a TV camera lens at the French Open in response to violent clashes in Kosovo, writing: “Kosovo is the [heart symbol] of Serbia. Stop the violence” in Serbian.
In a letter written by KOC President Ismet Krasniqi and addressed to the IOC, the KOC said 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.”
CNN has reached out to Djokovic’s representation for comment.
The KOC claimed Djokovic “yet again promoted the Serbian nationalists propaganda and used the sport platform to do so,” thereby raising “the level of tension and violence between the two countries, Kosovo and Serbia.”
Tensions have been rising in the past week in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. There were clashes with protestors on Monday after ethnically Albanian mayors took office in northern Kosovo, a majority Kosovo Serb area, following April elections that Kosovo Serbs had boycotted.
Djokovic elaborated on his message in Serbian at a press conference this week, saying: “This is the least I could have done. I feel the responsibility as a public figure – doesn’t matter in which field – to give support.
“Especially as a son of a man born in Kosovo, I feel the need to give my support to our people and to the entirety of Serbia. I don’t know, and I think many others don’t know, what the future brings for Kosovo and for Serbian people, but it’s necessary to show support and demonstrate unity in these kinds of situations.”
Djokovic’s reference to the “entirety of Serbia” reflects the policy of the Serbian government, which still considers Kosovo to be an integral part of its territory and has not recognized the country’s independence.
Krasniqi warned that, if no action was taken against Djokovic, it “sets a dangerous precedent that sport can be used as a platform for political messages.”
He added: “I respectfully urge that IOC reacts within its framework and requests to the ITF to follow the principles regulated by the Olympic Charter and investigate on this matter by opening a disciplinary proceedings against the athlete.”
In a statement sent to CNN, an ITF spokesperson said: “We have received and acknowledged a letter from the Kosovo Tennis Federation and have forwarded it to the relevant Grand Slam authority.
“Rules for player conduct at a Grand Slam event are governed by the Grand Slam rulebook, administered by the relevant organiser and regulator. There is no provision in this that prohibits political statements.”
The IOC told CNN that the French Open is run by the relevant grand slam authority and governed by their rules.
“Only during the Olympic Games the players are under the authority of the IOC,” it said.
Djokovic plays in the second round of the French Open against Hungary’s Márton Fucsovics on Wednesday.