Three fencers on the boys’s US Olympic workforce had been sporting pink masks once they arrived Friday in Tokyo for his or her opening match towards Japan.
However the coordinated masks weren’t a coincidence; they had been a deliberate protest by the trio towards a teammate who’s accused of sexual assault, sources near the workforce advised BuzzFeed Information.
Images shared on social media confirmed three of the 4 athletes on the boys’s épée workforce — Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald, and Yeisser Ramirez — sporting pink masks, whereas teammate Alen Hadzic — who’s underneath investigation for sexual assault — wore a black one.
“The disdain was clear,” one supply advised BuzzFeed Information.
“They determined to make a press release that they weren’t standing for him being there,” mentioned one other fencing athlete not competing within the Tokyo Olympics. “They needed to make a distinction between themselves that they did not stand for sexual assault or abuse towards girls. These athletes needed to have a voice the place US Fencing and SafeSport failed.”
Regardless of going through at the very least three allegations of previous sexual misconduct, Hadzic was picked as an alternate on the boys’s épée workforce for the 2020 Olympics, inflicting dismay and outrage amongst Group USA fencers, as detailed in a BuzzFeed Information investigation.
His inclusion prompted six girls fencers, together with two Olympic athletes, to induce the Worldwide Olympic Committee to not permit him to characterize the US; his presence, they mentioned, was a “direct affront” to fellow athletes and put them in danger.
“We’re gravely involved in regards to the impression Mr. Hadzic’s potential presence may have on different Group USA athletes,” the ladies wrote on Might 20.
Whereas the US Heart for SafeSport, the nonprofit company liable for defending athletes from abuse, suspended Hadzic from the Olympics final month as a result of investigation, he fought to get his prohibition lifted via an arbitration course of.
USA Fencing created a “security plan” to maintain Hadzic away from girls and out of the Olympic Village, which included him touring and staying individually from his teammates.
He was additionally forbidden from practising with girls teammates.
Hadzic has denied the allegations of sexual misconduct, telling USA In the present day that “they’re untruths.” His legal professional, Michael Palma, advised the New York Instances that his consumer had by no means dedicated any acts of sexual assault.
USA Fencing didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark in regards to the pink masks.
However the stunt earned reward from US fencer and 2016 Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad.
“Kudos to the workforce for taking a stand,” she tweeted on Friday.
Whereas Hadzic didn’t take part on Friday, the workforce misplaced to Japan and got here in ninth.