Brazil volleyball star faces Olympic complaint after post threatening Lula

FILE PHOTO: 2016 Rio Olympics - Volleyball - Men's Gold Medal Match Italy v Brazil - Maracanazinho - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 21/08/2016. Wallace Leandro De Souza (BRA) of Brazil and Mauricio De Souza (BRA) of Brazil celebrate a point. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The Brazilian Olympic Committee said it had filed a complaint against volleyball player Wallace de Souza after the former Olympic champion wrote a post on social media that appeared to back violence against President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

An Instagram follower of the athlete asked him on the social media platform if he would "shoot Lula in the face with a 12 (caliber gun)."

The player known as Wallace, who is a longtime supporter of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, responded with a poll asking his followers if they would go through with it.

He later deleted the post and uploaded a video apologizing, saying he would never suggest violence or hatred towards anyone and calling the post a mistake.

As well as the complaint filed to its independent ethics council by the Brazilian Olympic Committee, which called the post "unacceptable," his club, Sada Cruzeiro, said it had suspended Wallace for "an indefinite period of time" and demanded a full retraction and apology.

Government officials called on Brazil's solicitor general to instigate legal action. Paulo Pimenta, the head of Lula's communications department, said they would take "all necessary measures."

Wallace was part of Brazil's gold medal-winning volleyball team in the 2016 Summer Olympics, and a silver medalist in 2012.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions in Brazil following a divisive election that saw leftist Lula clash with Bolsonaro, whose looser gun policies prompted a sharp rise in gun ownership among his conservative supporters. Threats of violence have also been on the rise.

Earlier in January, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters vandalized the Supreme Court, Congress and presidential palace, seeking to provoke chaos and a military coup that would oust Lula and restore Bolsonaro to power.

"Before being an athlete, Wallace is a Brazilian citizen and must obey our laws and institutions," Sports Minister Ana Moser, a former volleyball player who won a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics, said in a tweet.

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Sarah Morland and Rosalba O'Brien)

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