SAO PAULO, Jun 10 (.) – Diageo Plc joined other major sponsors retiring from the Copa América on Thursday after players criticized organizers for moving the soccer tournament to Brazil, which is suffering one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the world.
The alcoholic beverage manufacturer said it was withdrawing its brands from the 10-country South American tournament “due to the current Brazilian health situation and out of respect for this moment of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mastercard Inc and beverage company Ambev had announced their withdrawal from the America’s Cup on Wednesday.
Diageo Brasil said in a statement that sponsorship had been agreed for the event when it was to be hosted by Colombia and Argentina.
Last week, the South American Soccer Confederation unexpectedly relocated the tournament, which begins on Sunday, after Colombia was ruled out due to civil unrest and Argentina withdrew after a surge in coronavirus infections.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the severity of the coronavirus and opposed the lockdowns, gave his support to the tournament. However, public health experts, Supreme Court judges and soccer players questioned the advisability of organizing it with an ongoing pandemic.
More than 479,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19, the world’s worst official death toll outside the United States, and experts warn that a third wave is approaching along with winter in the southern hemisphere.
The Brazilian soccer team cited “humanitarian” concerns in a statement criticizing the organization of the Copa América on Wednesday, but pledged to participate in the tournament following rumors of a possible boycott.
Mastercard Inc said it decided not to “activate” its sponsorship of the Copa América in Brazil, meaning it will temporarily withdraw its branding from the event it has supported since 1992.
Ambev SA, a unit of the AB InBev brewery that sponsors both the tournament and the Brazilian team, said that “their brands will not be present at the Copa América.”
(Report by Alberto Alerigi and Anthony Boadle; Edited in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida)