Brazil’s Olympic Committee (COB) issued a five-year ban to volleyball champion Wallace de Souza on Tuesday in response to a post on his Instagram account in January in which he asked followers if they would “shoot Lula in the face.”
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is the president of Brazil.
De Souza, more commonly known in Brazil by his first name Wallace, initially received a one-year ban in February from playing on Brazil’s national volleyball team and a 90-day suspension from practicing any sports-related activity. The length of the ban was dramatically increased to five years this week after COB’s ethics committee ruled that the original ban “had been insufficient.”
Wallace, a 35-year-old volleyball player who currently plays for the Brazilian Sada Cruzeiro team, is a two-time Olympian and Olympic champion, having won a gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games. The current ban would presumably keep him from participating in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics and potentially jeopardize his presence at the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.
The COB banned Wallace in response to an Instagram post in which he appeared to encourage violence against the president. On January 31, Wallace posted a picture of himself holding a firearm on his Instagram account. The volleyball player then reportedly used the social media platform’s question box feature, allowing his over 370,000 followers to directly ask him any questions.
One of his followers used the feature to ask him, “Would you shoot Lula in the face with that?” Wallace responded to the question by opening a poll asking, “Would someone do that?” Over half, 54 percent, of respondents said yes.
Wallace took down the post and issued a public apology following the public outcry condemning him for inciting violence against the president less than a month after anti-Lula protesters stormed the capital, Brasilia, and destroyed parts of the Brazilian Congress and top court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF). Wallace said the post was a mistake and insisted he would never suggest violence or hatred towards anyone.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I would never incite violence under any circumstances, especially to our President [Lula],” Wallace said. “So, I come here to apologize, it was an unfortunate post that I ended up making. I was wrong.”
The incident prompted the office of Brazil’s Attorney General to call for disciplinary measures against Wallace and request that he be banned from practicing professional volleyball, arguing that the post was not protected by freedom of speech. Wallace was then imposed his original one-year ban and 90-day suspension as punishment. The Brazilian Volleyball Confederation (CBV) responded by announcing that it would exhaust all legal measures to overturn the ban.
The Sada Cruzeiro volleyball team Wallace is a member of filed for an injunction at the Supreme Court of Sports Justice (STJD), which was granted in April. The injunction upended the 90-day suspension and allowed Wallace to participate in the tournament’s final match against Minas on April 30, where the Sada Cruzeiro team emerged victorious.
“I made a mistake, an off-court mistake, for which I apologized and regretted,” Wallace wrote on his Instagram account on Monday. “I don’t want any athlete to go through this. It was hard, but with the help mainly of my family, Cruzeiro which at all times understood my failure and still stood by my side, and finally my friends.”
On Tuesday, the Brazil Olympic Committee issued a decision to extend both the one-year ban from playing for Brazil’s national volleyball team and the 90-day ban suspension from practicing sports imposed on Wallace to five years, arguing that the volleyball player had “failed to comply with the decision of the Ethics Council of the Brazilian Olympic Committee.”
“Upon entering the court, the athlete knew he was acting unlawfully and the CBV [Brazilian Volleyball Confederation] was also fully aware that its decision to allow the volleyball player to participate in the competition while the punishment was in effect was unlawful and unethical,” the decision read.
In addition, the Ethics Council of the Brazilian Olympic Committee decided to suspend all financial transfers “from any sources” and material to the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation for six months to punish its handling of the situation. The Council suspended the Confederation’s president, Radamés Lattari Filho, from participating in Olympic Committee-related activities for one year.
The Sada Cruzeiro team responded to the Brazilian Olympic Committee’s decision Wednesday in a statement released on its website expressing outrage at the “unconstitutional” decision and stating that it was “perplexed.” By ignoring the injunction granted by the Brazilian Supreme Court of Sports Justice, the Brazilian Olympic Committee’s ethics council is conferring itself “a competence that it does not possess.”
“We are not in a lawless land, where one can overrule everything and everyone,” the statement read. “Common sense should prevail. The political fights between institutions and egos cannot harm the sport and the entire volleyball system.”
“Wallace made a big mistake. He apologized and was punished,” the statement continued. “He and his whole family suffered for his unfortunate act. And because of his act he will be persecuted forever?”
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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