Three fencers on the US Olympic team were wearing pink masks when they arrived Friday in Tokyo for their opening match against Japan.
But the coordinating masks were no accident. They were planned to protest by the trio against A Colleague accused of sexual assault, sources close to the team told BuzzFeed News.
Pictures circulating on social media showed three of the four athletes on the men’s épée team – Jake Howell, Curtis McDouald and Yusr Ramirez – wearing pink masks, while their teammate was in action. Allen Hadzic – Who is under investigation for sexual assault – Wearing black.
“The contempt was palpable,” one source told BuzzFeed News.
“They decided to make a statement that they are not in his favour,” said another fencing athlete who is not participating in the Tokyo Olympics. “They wanted to distinguish among themselves that they did not stand up against sexual assault or abuse against women. These athletes wanted to have a voice where US Fencing and SafeSport failed.”
Despite facing at least three allegations of sexual misconduct in the past, Hadzic was selected as a replacement on the men’s épée team at the 2020 Olympics, causing resentment and anger among Team USA fencers, as detailed in BuzzFeed News investigation.
His inclusion of six women, including two Olympic female athletes, prompted the IOC not to allow him to represent the United States; They said his presence was a “direct insult” to his fellow athletes and put them at risk.
“We are deeply concerned about the impact that Mr. Hadzic’s potential presence will have on the other athletes on Team USA,” the women wrote on May 20.
While the American Center for Safe Sports, the nonprofit agency responsible for protecting athletes from abuse, suspended Hadzic from the Olympics last month due to an investigation, he has struggled to get his ban lifted through an arbitration process.
USA Fencing devised a “safety plan” to keep Hadzic away from the women and her exit from Olympic Village, which included him traveling and staying separate from his teammates.
He was also banned from training with female teammates.
Hadzic denied allegations of sexual misconduct, saying USA TODAY that “they are lies.” His attorney, Michael Palma, told The New York Times That his client has not committed any acts of sexual assault.
USA Fencing did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the pink masks.
But 2016 US Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad earned acclaim from the fencing.
“kudos to the team for taking a stand,” she wrote on Twitter on Friday.
While Hadzic did not participate on Friday, the team lost to Japan and came in ninth.