Former Penn State All-American Deja McClendon, who is playing for the Brazilian pro team Minas Tênis Clube, was the target of online racism on Saturday.
McClendon, an African-American from Louisville, Kentucky, and her team were playing in-state rival Praia Clube in the final match of a pre-season tournament that reunited teams from the states of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro in the municipality of Sete Lagoas.
The match was being streamed on Facebook and a viewer named Rafael Santos expressed his dissatisfaction with McClendon’s performance in the match, which was won by Praia Clube in straight sets. He posted the following message in the chat box: “Minas, sub the bald monkey off.”
The message generated immediate reaction on the social-media platform with multiple users disliking Santos’ comment and calling him out for racism.
Two of McClendon’s teammates, two-time Olympic champion opposite Sheilla Castro and setter Bruna Costa, also replied to the message saying Santos won’t be unpunished for his comments. Several support messages could also be found on McClendon’s Instagram page.
The Volleyball Federation of the State of Minas Gerais, which organized the tournament and held the livestream, released a statement that said that it “repudiates any racists acts and that the sport is built on ideas which are completely opposite to hate displayed in those messages. We would also like to offer Deja McClendon our support.”
Minas Tênis Clube also released a statement on Sunday, in which the club lamented and repudiated the comments. The organization also thanked the numerous support messages the outside hitter got on social media.
McClendon had not commented.
The video is still online and it had registered over 52,000 views and almost 6,000 comments when this article was published.
This is not the first time Minas Tênis Clube’s fan base was connected with allegations of racism, however. Brazil men’s national team opposite Wallace de Souza and Brazil women’s national team captain Fabiana Claudino have both allegedly been called “monkey” by fans when playing for opposing teams.
The 27-year-old McClendon, who won two NCAA titles while at Penn State, joined the Brazilian club after spending the last five seasons playing in Azerbaijan, Poland and Italy. Brazil’s national league, the Superliga, is set to start in November.