‘Yellow banana’ chant at World Table Tennis Championships draws backlash, ITTF apology

ITTF vows to take action after racist incident at the World Table Tennis Championships in Texas

The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has committed to preventing “racist incidents” following the “yellow banana” chant of spectators at the World Table Tennis Championships in Texas on Saturday.

What happened: A crowd member reportedly began chanting “yellow banana” during the fourth round of a 16-round match between Chinese table tennis star Liang Jingkun and British player Liam Pitchford at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, according to South China Morning Post.

  • After requesting for a short break, Pitchford ate a banana while Liang talked with his coach. 
  • One of the match’s spectators shouted “yellow banana,” which Chinese social media users and state-run media have accused of being a racist remark targeting Liang. The fan’s chant was picked up and carried on by others in the audience around him.
  • Chinese state-run outlet Global Times noted that the word “banana” is both English slang and a racist insult to “the yellow race.”  “Based on the actual circumstances, it is also reasonable to suspect that [the spectator] was actually making a racist insult against Liang,” the Global Times piece reads.

The aftermath: In a statement on Sunday, the ITTF denounced the racist behavior of the crowd at the World Table Tennis Championships and vowed to prevent the situation from happening again, according to state-run outlet CGTN.

  • It’s very, very, very seriously taken by the ITTF,” the organization’s president, Petra Sorling said. “We are standing against racism, and for us, ‘Table Tennis. For All. For Life’ is reality, it’s not only our motto.”
  • We will not tolerate any racist remarks or behaviour, and we are working closely with the local organising committee to prevent the recurrence of racist incidents in our games,” the ITTF wrote in a statement to Xinhua.
  • Steve Dainton, group CEO of the ITTF, said that the sports governing body started collaborating with a local organizing committee after receiving news of the chant.
  • Liang, who is currently at the ninth spot of the 2021 ITTF Table Tennis World Ranking for men’s singles, , beat Pitchford, ranked 16th, during the Saturday match with a final score of 4-3.
  • Liang advanced to the men’s quarter-finals and eventually lost to Fan Zhendong, the world top men’s singles table tennis player, in the semi-finals 4-1.

Featured Image via World Table Tennis

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