USA Paintball is cutting ties with one of its athletes for posting a viral TikTok mocking a Florida teenager’s weight after he was hospitalized with COVID-19 for 10 days, the team announced Monday.
Jessica Maiolo, 31, has been removed from Team USA Paintball “indefinitely” following an investigation into a video she posted where she criticized 17-year-old David Espino for needing “a f—ing treadmill,” not a vaccine.
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“Team USA Paintball has no tolerance for discrimination or bullying of any kind,” a statement posted to Instagram read.
“It has always been our highest priority to represent our country with integrity and respect. To the family that did not need, asl or ever deserve to be put in this position — we thank you for allowing us this chance to show where we stand.”
USA Paintball continued: “Our investigation into the troubling conduct of Ms. Maiolo has been concluded and we have decided to remove her from the team indefinitely.”
In the video, which has since been deleted, Maiolo spoke about the Miami teen whose mother said she’d wished she’d gotten him the vaccine sooner so the serious illness could’ve been prevented, according to the New York Post.
“Ma’am your kid does not need a COVID shot,” Maiolo said, “Your kid needs a f—ing treadmill. That’s what he needs.”
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The video received harsh backlash on social media, prompting users to contact USA Paintball.
“For those of you frustrated with the time it took to come to this conclusion, please consider the following,” USA Paintball said in its statement.
“We as an organization have a responsibility to exercise due diligence in carrying out all investigations and decisions regarding consequences. We believe in a due process where an individual, any individual, can be heard or given a chance to rectify their mistakes.”
“Our decision to formally dismiss Ms. Maiolo from the Team USA program is final and in effect immediately.”
Maiolo issued her own statement on Monday saying she regrets her handling of the situation.
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“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,” her statement, via the Post, read.
“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 opinions may affect others.”
She continued: “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.”