Barcelona have decided to reduce the presence of former players Ronaldinho and Rivaldo at club-related activities—like legends games and sponsorship events—after the two Brazilians announced their support for Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right presidential candidate in Brazil.
Catalan newspaper Sport reported that the club found the endorsements “incompatible” with its values and that they would rather slowly disassociate from the players than publicly oppose their stances. Ronaldinho and Rivaldo each have agreements with Barcelona where they earn money for appearing at certain events as club ambassadors.
Bolsonaro’s meteoric rise to popularity in Brazil can be attributed to his harsh, bigoted rhetoric and promises of severe criminal justice reform, not unlike that which was used during Trump’s 2016 campaign. He told a female lawmaker in 2014 that she was too ugly to rape. He said of Afro-Brazilian communities that they were not “worth anything” because “they don’t even manage to procreate anymore.” When talking about solving crime he said, “a policeman who doesn’t kill isn’t a policeman.” It’s no wonder that Barcelona wants to get as far away as possible from this sort of messaging.
Ronaldinho and Rivaldo aren’t the only two Brazilian soccer stars with vocal ties to Bolsonaro. In another report, Sport pointed out that current players like Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Alisson had all indirectly shown support for the candidate. But given the popularity of some of these athletes, it’s not likely that other clubs will follow the lead of Barcelona and distance themselves from those players from a promotional standpoint. It’s much easier to get away from someone when you don’t have to trot them out in a starting lineup on a weekly basis.