Team USA Paintball kicked off player Jessica Maiolo after she mocked a teen who had been hospitalized for COVID-19, quipping that the child needed a "f***ing treadmill," not a COVID-19 vaccine.
What are the details?
According to a Tuesday report from NBC News, Maiolo posted a 15-second TikTok video of herself in front of a television image displaying a news story about a teenage boy who was hospitalized for COVID-19.
"Ma'am," she said, apparently addressing the unnamed child's mother, "your kid does not need a COVID shot. Your kid needs a f***ing treadmill. That's what he needs."
The video, which has since been deleted, drew heavy criticism on social media, prompting the team to announce Maiolo's forced departure.
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In a Monday statement, the team said, "We believe that players must at all times consider the weight of their words, and align themselves with the values of our organization."
What was the reaction?
Teammate Andrea Martinez told the outlet that she was "really disappointed" when she saw the video.
"It's not in line with me and my values and the things that I believe in, obviously," she said.
Alex Fraige, who plays professional paintball for the San Diego Dynasty, said that Maiolo's quip was wrong.
"It's unfortunate, because one person's knee-jerk, crass, ridiculous opinion can reflect now on a whole community of people," Fraige said. "In no way does she represent the paintball community. Yes, she's a part of it, but she's not a spokesperson for it."
'It was never my intention to shame any individual'
Maiolo, 31, did not respond to requests for comment but she issued an apology for the offending video.
"What started out as me expressing my personal opinion about something I feel quite passionately about, has turned into a moment of regret for the situation I have put my teammates, our sponsors, and the sport I love into. If I were to have such a moment again to convey my full thoughts, I would choose my words more carefully and consider how my opinion may affect others. It was never my intention to shame any individual, my reaction to the story about the young boy actually comes from a place of deep fear that people believe they have little hope in the way of staying healthy and being in control of their own wellness," Maiolo shared in the post.
She continued, "How I expressed this I realize now, could never have left a different impression of me and my thoughts because the platform and the moment are meant to capture snapshots and not pictures of who we are as real people. I know that there is much I may not know about the boy in the video and I do hope that he is well. As may be evident by the hobbies I have, I am a passionate individual. My fire is the same for paintball and fitness as it is for self advocacy and all of the things that make me proud to live where I do."
"While I received many message requests, my teammates, sponsors, and others unaffiliated to myself have also been targeted by the backlash of my actions," Maiolo's post continued. "They, however, are not directly involved in the situation that occurred over the weekend, and I respectfully ask that any messages and threats towards my teammates and friends cease since they have zero involvement in this."
She concluded, "In the last 24 hours I have learned a lot about the power of my reach and in the future, I will be more responsible with it. I appreciate the opportunity to see this situation from the viewpoint of others, and to learn where I can do better and will. I hope that I may inspire others to realize the power of their words too."