Adidas says it has withdrawn from sale two Brazil-themed World Cup T-shirts at the centre of a row over the sexualisation of women in Brazil, a statement from the company – one of the FIFA World Cup’s biggest sponsors – issued on Tuesday said.
Brazil’s tourism board, Embratur, said earlier on Tuesday that it “vehemently repudiated the sale of products that link Brazil’s image to sexual appeal”. It later asked the German sporting goods company to stop selling the shirts.
Brazil has recently stepped up its long-running campaign against sex tourism, including through its overseas tourism agencies, in the run-up to Carnival and the World Cup.
One of the Brazil-themed shirts depicts a woman in a bikini on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background and the words “Looking to score”, while the other shows the words “I love Brazil” with the heart shape replacing the word “love” in the shape of a woman’s upside-down buttocks in a thong.
In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, Adidas said the sale of the shirts was restricted to the US market:
“We always listen carefully to our customers and other stakeholders, so having taken on board their feedback, we have made the decision to withdraw this product line,” Adidas said in a statement.
By Tuesday night the items were no longer visible on the company’s website.
Brazil’s Human rights minister Maria do Rosario tweeted that Adidas had contacted the Brazilian government to confirm it was pulling the shirts, and praised the “very important fast reaction from the government and society in rejecting sexualised items” which she said had been “effective”.
Embratur had said that the Adidas shirts’ “campaign” went directly against the message of “natural and cultural attributes” with which Brazil was trying to promote itself.
The shirts touched a raw nerve for those in Brazil who have often decried the clichéd sexualised stereotype of Brazilians promoted abroad – often involving bikini-clad women.
The controversy over the Adidas shirts also came on the same day that President Dilma Rousseff took to Twitter to lead a renewed crackdown on sex tourism in Brazil in the build-up to this year’s Carnival – which is beginning across the country – and the FIFA World Cup, which begins on 12 June.
Both events attract a considerable number of tourists.
“Brazil is happy to receive tourists coming here for the World Cup, but is also ready to combat sex tourism,” President Rousseff warned.
Brazil has strived to shake off its reputation as a destination for sex tourism, and warning signs in the country’s airports have long discouraged foreigners from using the country – including its children and adolescent – for such purposes.
Militant feminist Maria Fernanda Marcelino, who leads the Brazil wing of the World March of Women, told Anadolu Agency that she rejected in the strongest possible terms Adidas’s decision to sell the shirts in the first place:
“We repudiate any action that seeks to profiteer from the sexualization and exploitation of women in Brazil and turn them into mere marketing,” she said.
Ms. Marcelino also called on football’s governing body and World Cup organisers FIFA to work with charities and the Brazilian government to combat sexual tourism in Brazil.
Adidas is one of the World Cup’s biggest sponsors and maker of the official World Cup ball.
Report written for Anadolu Agency