Brazilian Olympic volleyball champion suspended after social media post threatening President Lula

By February 14, 2023

São Paulo, Brazil – Volleyball star Wallace de Souza, an Olympic champion in 2016 and one of the biggest names in Brazilian sport, has been suspended indefinitely by the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) after posting a poll on Instagram about shooting President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the head.

Earlier this month, Wallace posted stories on Instagram that featured guns and shooting clubs. In one of the posts, he asked his followers if he should use one of the guns to shoot President Lula. The post had huge negative repercussions and generated criticism not only in the world of sport, but also in politics.

Wallace deleted the post and apologized the next day. 

“Anyone who knows me knows that I would never incite violence under any circumstances, especially towards our president. So, I come here to apologize, it was an unfortunate post. I made a mistake,” he said.

The apology was not enough for the athlete to avoid punishment, however.

Wallace’s team, Sada Cruzeiro, was the first to speak out and condemn the post. The team also suspended the player indefinitely. Afterwards, the Ethics Committee of the Brazilian Olympic Committee decided to suspend Wallace until the case can be fully investigated.

“In this case, the offenses, the incitement to crime and the threats, even if some of them are disguised since they are put in the form of a question, were all committed against the highest authority in the country, which occupies the post due to the democratic and fair electoral process,” said the committee.

Wallace is banned from playing any volleyball matches organized by the Brazilian Olympic Committee, which includes playing for the Brazilian national team. In addition to the process initiated by COB, the athlete is also undergoing an ethical-disciplinary process for the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation (CBV).

“The CBV repudiates any type of violence or incitement to violent acts, incompatible with the values ​​of respect and equality that guide the sport,” said the confederation.

Wallace asked on his Instagram about shooting President Lula in the face

Sport ban request

The Advocacy-General of the Union (AGU), the agency that defends the legal interests of the federal government, submitted a request to ban Wallace from the sport, which means he would be permanently prevented from playing professional volleyball. AGU’s request was sent to both the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation.

According to the AGU, Wallace allegedly disrespected the COB code of ethical conduct that prohibits the use of discriminatory expressions and incitement to acts of violence through social media. The agency asked for the maximum penalties provided for in Brazilian law: A fine of R$ 100,000 (USD $20,000), in addition to a permanent ban from the sport.

“The AGU said that Wallace’s conduct constitutes incitement to crime, provided for in Brazilian law, and that the manifestation of hatred made by the player on his social media is not protected by the right to freedom of speech, since no one is authorized to commit a crime invoking this fundamental freedom,” the agency said. 

Wallace often posts images with guns and shooting clubs

Who is Wallace de Souza?

Wallace Leandro de Souza is 35 years old and has a two-decade career in volleyball. 

In 2010, he debuted for the Brazilian national team, where he won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and a gold medal at the 2016 games hosted by Brazil. He also won medals in other major tournaments such as the Volleyball World League. 

A member of the Brazilian national team for more than 10 years, Wallace has become one of the top volleyball players in the country. 

In 2018, he declared his support for former President Jair Bolsonaro, elected that year, including in an official photo of the Brazilian team. Since then, he has made other demonstrations on social media in support of Bolsonaro.