Professional wrestling managers say they have apologized to the Brazilian government for an incident where one of the sport’s biggest stars, Canadian Chris Jericho, crumpled the country’s flag and stomped on it during a performance on Thursday in Sao Paulo.
Jericho, in a statement posted on the World Wrestling Entertainment website, called the act “a bad judgment call.”
The WWE site claims the flag made its way into the ring during a bout between Jericho and WWE champion CM Punk.
Videos then show Jericho crumpling, stomping and kicking the flag.
The WWE site then claims local police intervened and informed Jericho that he had the choice of apologizing or being arrested. Jericho immediately expressed his regret.
Skeptics note that Jericho plays a villainous character, known in professional wrestling as a “heel,” and they’re questioning whether the incident was as fake as the sport.
The WWE, however, has responded by suspending Jericho.
“Chris Jericho has been suspended for 30 days due to an irresponsible act of denigrating the Brazilian flag at a WWE live event in Sao Paulo on May 24,” a statement on the WWE website says.
“WWE has apologized to the citizens and the government of Brazil for this incident.”
Fans at the event initially booed Jericho for his treatment of their flag. Jericho, with a microphone egged them on and told them to “Shut your mouths!”
His tone later switched to humble.
“I love Brazil. We are very happy to be here to perform for you. So please accept my apology for stepping on the wonderful flag of this wonderful country,” Jericho told the audience.
The apology was met with cheers and applause and the performance continued.
Jericho says he understands the suspension.
“It was a bad move,” Jericho says on the WWE website. “I did it with [our]fans’ entertainment in mind and I’ll accept the consequences for that.”
Jericho, who grew up in Winnipeg and whose real name is Chris Irvine, trained in Stu Hart’s famous dungeon in Calgary and often watched American Wrestling Association matches at the Winnipeg Arena.
He studied journalism at Winnipeg’s Red River College, and has been honoured by the college as a distinguished alumni.
“I made a bad judgment call in the course of entertaining [WWE]fans in Brazil,” Jericho said on the WWE website. “I apologized to the people in the crowd for showing disrespect.”