Three fencers on the Men's U.S. Olympic team donned pink masks during their match against Japan on Friday to protest against a teammate accused of sexual assault.
Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald and Yeisser Ramirez wore their masks to protest the inclusion of their teammate, Alen Hadzic, who is currently being investigated for sexual assault allegations. Hadzic was the only teammate to wear a black mask.
"They decided to make a statement that they were not standing for him being there," a fencing athlete not competing in the Tokyo Olympics told BuzzFeed News. "They wanted to make a distinction between themselves that they didn't stand for sexual assault or abuse against women. These athletes wanted to have a voice where US Fencing and SafeSport failed."
An update from Tokyo: #TeamUSA men's epee team deliberately wore pink masks for their opening match to stand in solidarity w/ sexual assault survivors and against their teammate, Alen Hadzic, who is under investigation for sexual assault— Brianna Sacks (@bri_sacks) July 30, 2021
"The disdain was clear," a source said pic.twitter.com/jTyrVJc4rw
After Hadzic qualified for the Olympics in May, three women accused him of sexual assault in incidents in 2013 and 2015, according to The Guardian. While Hadzic was initially suspended from competing by US Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit aimed to protect victims of sexual in sports, Hadzic appealed and won the case on June 29. He was then permitted to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.
However, Hadzic was put under restrictions per a "safety plan" put in place by USA Fencing. He was kept away from female athletes and separated from the Olympic village, as well as forbidden to practice with female teammates. He also traveled separately.
Hadzic reportedly called those measures “arbitrary and unnecessary,” and filed a complaint with United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, according to the Guardian. After that, however, he was only permitted to move to a hotel closer to the Olympic village, improving his initial 30-minute commute.
Hadzic was chosen as an alternate and did not fence in the match. Despite his absence, many athletes criticized the choice even to allow him at the Games.
“We are pissed off that this is even a thing we had to deal with,” one Olympic fencer who filed a complaint against Hadzic, told BuzzFeed News. “He’s been protected again and again.”
Hadzic has consistently denied the allegations.