Team USA Paintball player removed from squad over TikTok post
Team USA Paintball said Tuesday that it has removed a member “indefinitely” following backlash over a viral TikTok video in which the player railed against a teenager hospitalized with COVID-19, claiming that the boy’s weight contributed to the severity of his infection.
In the since-deleted 15-second video, Jessica Maiolo stood in front of TV airing a news story about children with the coronavirus.
According to NBC News, which viewed the video before it was deleted, Maiolo responded to a teenage boy who was in the hospital, saying, “Ma’am, your kid does not need a COVID shot. Your kid needs a f—ing treadmill.”
“That’s what he needs,” she reportedly added.
Several users on the platform condemned Maiolo for her commentary, with one user named Savannah Sparks saying in a response video that also went viral, “Jessica, as a member of Team USA Paintball, I don’t think you’re qualified to speak on public health issues especially when it’s to fat-shame a hospitalized teenager who probably didn’t have a say in whether or not he was vaccinated.”
Team USA Paintball in a statement posted Saturday on its Instagram and Facebook pages initially said that while it aims to “respect every individual’s right to have opinions and express them personally,” the “actions of one of our players was incredibly inappropriate and insensitive.”
“We do not condone it,” the team added. “Her opinions are hers alone and do not speak for a team, an organization, a sponsor or a sport.”
The team at first said it had suspended Maiolo while it investigated the video, but revealed in an update Tuesday that the “investigation into the troubling conduct of Ms. Maiolo has been concluded and we have decided to remove her from the team indefinitely.”
“Team USA has no tolerance for discrimination or bullying of any kind,” the statement said. “It has always been our highest priority to represent our country with integrity and respect.”
“To the family that did not need, ask or ever deserve to be put in this position — we thank you for allowing us this chance to show where we stand,” the team added.
Maiolo took to Instagram to apologize for her video, calling it a “moment of regret,” adding that she was “deeply sorry for any attention I have brought to this family.”
“I know that there is much I may not know about the boy in the video and I do hope that he is well,” she added. “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.”