RIO DE JANEIRO, March 17 (Reuters) - Sportswear maker Nike said it canceled an event in Rio de Janeiro planned for Thursday to launch the new Brazil soccer shirt, fearing it would be disrupted by protests over President Dilma Rousseff’s appointing her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva chief of staff.
Demonstrations broke out across the country as thousands of opponents expressed dismay at what they regard as an attempt to shield Lula from prosecution on charges of corruption. Anti-government protesters frequently wear Nike’s Brazil soccer jersey at marches.
As the protests grew, and people wearing the gold and green jersey poured into streets up and down the country chanting “Dilma out” and “Lula to prison,” organizers of the Nike event set to take place in one of Rio’s main parks opted to cancel late on Wednesday.
“We didn’t know what Rio was going to be like today. It was a preventive measure because we were going to have a lot of press and athletes and it’s an open space,” Bruno Municelli, one of the organizers, told Reuters.
Municelli said the decision was not influenced by the fact protesters frequently wear the Nike soccer shirt. An event in New York also launching the new jersey will go ahead as planned.
By midday on Thursday there had not been any sizable protests in Rio.
Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Dan Grebler