2021-08-03 15:25:41 US Fencers Wore Pinks Masks In Protest Of Teammate
US Fencers Wore Pinks Masks In Protest Of Teammate
When the men’s US Olympic fencing team arrived in Tokyo on Friday for their first match against Japan, three of their fencers were wearing pink masks.
The coordinated masks, however, were not a coincidence; they were a planned protest by the trio against a teammate accused of sexual assault, according to sources close to the team.
Three of the four athletes on the men’s épée team, Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald, and Yeisser Ramirez, wore pink masks in photos shared on social media, while teammate Alen Hadzic, who is under investigation for sexual assault, wore a black mask.
“The disdain was clear,” one source told BuzzFeed News.
“They decided to make a statement that they were not standing for him being there,” said another fencing athlete who will not compete in the Tokyo Olympics. “They wanted to distinguish themselves by stating that they did not support sexual assault or abuse of women. These athletes wished to be heard where US Fencing and SafeSport had failed.”
Despite facing at least three allegations of sexual misconduct in the past, Hadzic was chosen as an alternate on the men’s épée team for the 2020 Olympics, causing dismay and outrage among Team USA fencers, according to a BuzzFeed News investigation.
His inclusion prompted six female fencers, including two Olympic athletes, to petition the International Olympic Committee to deny him the right to represent the United States; their presence, they claimed, was a “direct affront” to fellow athletes and put them in danger.
“We are deeply concerned about Mr. Hadzic’s potential presence on other Team USA athletes,” the women wrote on May 20.
While the US Center for SafeSport, the nonprofit organization in charge of protecting athletes from abuse, barred Hadzic from competing in the Olympics last month due to the investigation, he fought to have his ban lifted through an arbitration process.
To keep Hadzic away from women and out of the Olympic Village, USA Fencing devised a “safety plan” which included him traveling and staying separately from his teammates.
He was also barred from practicing with female teammates.
Hadzic has denied the sexual misconduct allegations, telling USA Today that “they’re untruths.” According to his attorney, Michael Palma, his client had never committed any acts of sexual assault.
A request for comment on the pink masks was not immediately returned by USA Fencing.
However, US fencer and 2016 Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad praised the stunt.
“Kudos to the team for taking a stand,” she said on Friday.
While Hadzic was not present on Friday, the team lost to Japan and finished ninth.