by: Mickey Ingles
In yesterday’s Premier Volleyball League (PVL) match between league leaders Creamline and winless Balipure, Balipure’s import Danijela Dzakovic struck her teammate Jewelle Bermillo on the back of her head. Frustration seemed to get the best (or worst) of Dzakovic, as miscommunication between her and Bermillo led to Creamline closing out the first set 25-19. Her response was an open palm to Bermillo’s head—which seemed to have had a lot of oomph behind it because Bermillo’s contact lens came out flying from the force of the blow.
Dzakovic has since apologized, and she can actually be seen hugging Bermillo right after the incident. The fact remains that this moment of madness opens the Montenegrin import to a whole host of sanctions.
The first sanction could come from her team, Balipure. While we aren’t privy to her contract with Balipure, the contract would undoubtedly have a morality clause. A morality clause is a standard provision in player and endorsement contracts that require players to refrain from any conduct that would be detrimental or damaging to the reputation of the player, the team, or the sport. Think of it as a catch-all you-better-behave provision that keeps players in check.
Spiking your teammate’s head instead of the ball is a classic example of an act that doesn’t do good for one’s reputation. The social media outrage on Dzakovic’s actions can be seen as a reflection on the effects to the reputation of Dzakovic and possibly Balipure and the sport of volleyball.
The sanctions Balipure can impose on Dzakovic will greatly depend on the wording of the player contract. Normally, these can range from the forfeiture of allowances, suspension from team activities, and even the termination of the contract altogether.
The second sanction could come from PVL itself. Again, we do not have access to PVL’s rules and regulations, but it wouldn’t be a stretch that Dzakovic’s strike constitutes a misconduct of some sort. Organized leagues such as the PVL or the Philippine Basketball Association normally have technical rules and regulations that outline the sanctions for various forms of misconduct. As of this writing, the PVL has yet to come out with a statement on the incident.
The third sanction can be found in the rules of the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), the governing international federation for volleyball. Under the FIVB Official Volleyball Rules 2017-2020, Chapter 7, 21.2.3, aggression—defined as actual physical attack or aggressive or threatening behavior—is misconduct that can lead to sanctions.
The sanction is outright disqualification. It doesn’t matter that this was Dzakovic’s first offense. Under 18.104.22.168, the first physical attack is sanctioned by disqualification. No warning is needed. Disqualification means that the player must immediately be substituted and leave the competition area for the rest of the match.
The problem was the incident was left unnoticed by the referees. The 1streferee should have immediately shown the red and yellow cards separately and had Dzakovic substituted and ushered out of the playing area. Instead, Dzakovic remained to play the rest of the match. How the PVL will handle the referees is another matter worth looking into as the story progresses.
As can be seen from FIVB Rules, disqualification affects the game itself. However, it is up to the PVL and Balipure whether the consequences of Dzakovic’s actions will spill over to the future. This could lead to Dzakovic being banned from playing in the Philippines again. That’s the harshest sanction Dzakovic is facing. Even if she is banned, it probably won’t be the last time we see Dzakovic. We all know the Philippines is a forgiving culture—especially in sports, where a lifetime ban on a professional basketball player doesn’t necessarily mean a lifetime.
Bermillo has said she and Dzakovic have settled things. Hopefully, things end well for both players.
Mickey Ingles is the editor-in-chief of Batas Sportiva. If you want to know more about sports law, read his book—Laws for Sports and the Sporty!