A female athlete who was being awarded one of soccer’s highest honors uttered a curt “No” and walked away after she was asked to twerk for everyone at the Ballon D’or award ceremony on Monday in France Monday, NBC News reported.
Ada Hegerberg, a 23-year-old Norwegian striker, was the first female athlete to receive the award, which had traditionally only been offered to men every year, according to TIME.
She helped her team, Lyon, snare a Champions League title for a record fifth time, scoring 15 goals, according to AFP.
“I am touched and very proud, for women’s football, for myself, for the club. I share this with Olympique Lyonnais, my teammates, the staff,” she said on stage during a speech, according to the news service. “It’s historic, it’s incredible, a great day for women’s football and a big step forward.”
Then award co-host Martin Solveig asked her a question in French, according to the Washington Post: “Do you know how to twerk?”
Video shows her hesitating for half a beat before saying “No” and curtly nodding her head and turning away amidst laughter. The clip was posted to Twitter and viewed millions of times, and sparked outrage among many who considered the question blatant sexism.
Solveig responded on Twitter in a series of statements, both apologizing and saying the “joke” was a misunderstanding.
“Sincere apologies to the one I may have offended. My point was : I don’t invite women to twerk but dance on a Sinatra song. Watch the full sequence People who have followed me for 20 years know how respectful I am especially with women,” he wrote, then followed up with a picture of him and Hegerberg clasping hands.
Hegerberg said that Solveig had apologized and that she “didn’t think about it at that moment. I didn’t consider it as sexual harassment or anything,” according to NBC News. She said Solveig was “really sad that it went that way,” the network reported.
She said she did not feel like the incident took away from her victory and said she was “sad if people thought about the situation like that,” according to AFP.
In a longer statement released Tuesday, Solveig said he acknowledged the twerk question was “in poor taste” and said he was “deeply sorry for my mistake.”
He said he had been asked to prepare a song for each winner and then to dance with the recipients, and that after his remarks, the two had danced to Frank Sinatra together.
“The twerking comment was used in contrast to the song I had prepared for her; however, this sentiment was misunderstood and has sadly caused offense,” he wrote.
He said he had “immediately apologized” to Ada and that he wished for “the focus to be shifted back to celebrating Ada Hegerberg becoming to the first woman to be awarded a Ballon d’Or. “