In August of last year, when the Belgian women’s basketball returned to Belgium after their acclaimed participation in the Olympic Games in Tokyo, 53-year-old Demarez went off the rails. He commented on video footage broadcast live on Facebook, but when he thought the mic was off, he added some inappropriate statements about the players’ sexuality. Statements that went wrong with the players.
Demarez was publicly pilloried and put on hold by Sporza, until he was able to get back to work behind the scenes in November. After reconciliation talks with the Belgian Cats, the folds have now been ironed out and the Sporza journalist will get back to work on Saturday as a presenter and commentator.
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In an interview with Linde Merckpoel, which will be on VRT NU, he looks back on the fuss. “Imagine you are gossiping at the coffee machine and the person you are talking about is suddenly behind you,” Demarez says of the embarrassment he felt after the incident. “That feeling, but times a million or three.”
Demarez says he doesn’t have an excuse for it. “You can say sorry a thousand times, but that doesn’t make it okay. Call it a blurring of norms in humor or brainless cafe talk: there is no excuse for it.”
From the conversation it appears that Demarez was deeply troubled – “I did not go to the bakery, the butcher or the supermarket and even fled abroad a few times” – but with the help of a psychologist, the turning point came after three months. “It took three months before I had something like: yes, now I want to start again. And I didn’t just want to say sorry, but also create something that benefits everyone.”
He also talks about his conversations with the Belgian Cats. “It was very confronting, but at the same time they were warm conversations. Everybody makes mistakes. Looking someone in the eye, saying sorry, admitting you made a mistake, it enriches your life. That doesn’t make a bad person a good person. I was not a bad person. And I’m not a good person now. But I did do something about my mistake. And I think that’s the most important.”
Demarez will be seen and heard on television from this weekend. In a press release, the VRT management says that it believes that Demarez can return to work as a sports commentator after the program has been completed. “I have seen how hard Eddy has worked to set up this process together with the Sporzaredactie, many willing athletes and experts,” says Karen Donders, director of public assignment, talent and organization. “Together, we learned important lessons from this story and continued this project.”
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