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Politics split athletes on volleyball's return in Brazil

FILE PHOTO: People play beach volleyball at Ipanema beach, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

(Reuters) - Players and officials who run Brazil’s beach volleyball criticized an athlete on Monday after she hit the headlines for shouting a political slogan at the first post-lockdown tournament.

Carol Solberg took bronze in the Saquarema tournament near Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, alongside her partner Talita. In her post-match interview, Solberg shouted “Bolsonaro, out!” - a slogan often used by opponents of Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.

The Brazilian Volleyball Confederation (CBV) criticized her protest soon after and said it would “take all the appropriate measures so that instances like this one that denigrate the sport do not happen again.”

On Monday, the National Athletes Commission, a player organization led by three-times world champion Emanuel Rego, said “it was not in favor of any type of political show of support in sporting competitions.”

The statements, both posted on the CBV’s website, come as a debate rages in athletic circles over competitors’ right to express themselves on political and social issues.

Basketball players in the United States have taken a firm stance in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, while American footballers have also been active in recent years.

The International Olympic Committee has warned athletes they must obey Article 50 of the Olympic charter that states, ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.’

Bolsonaro is a divisive figure in Brazil, where more than 136,000 people have died after contracting COVID-19.

Reporting by Andrew Downie, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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