The three wrestlers on the US men’s Olympic team were wearing pink caps when they arrived in Tokyo on Friday for their opening match against Japan.
But the embedded masks did not just happen; was a demonstration organized by the trio against a a colleague who is accused of rape, sources close to the group told BuzzFeed News.
Photos shared on TV showed three of the four players in the men’s team – Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald, and Yeisser Ramirez – wearing pink masks, while the players participated. Alen Hadzic – who is being investigated for rape – wore black.
“The insult was obvious,” one source told BuzzFeed News.
“He decided not to represent her,” said a non-Olympic athlete from Tokyo. “They wanted to differentiate between them that they did not represent rape or abuse of women. The players wanted to have a say when US Fencing and SafeSport failed.”
Despite facing three sexual offenses in the past, Hadzic was selected to be one of the épée men’s teams at the 2020 Olympics, sparking frustration and anger among the team-makers of Team USA, as described in BuzzFeed News survey.
Her involvement prompted six barricades, including two Olympic athletes, to urge the International Olympic Committee not to allow her to represent the US; they said his presence was a “direct insult” to his fellow athletes and put them at risk.
“We are very concerned about how Mr. Hadzic’s presence will affect other Team USA players,” the women wrote on May 20.
When the US Center for SafeSport, a non-profit organization that oversees athletes’ safety from violence, suspended Hadzic from the Olympics last month over the investigation, he argued that his ban would be lifted through a series of protests.
USA Fencing developed a “security plan” to keep Hadzic away from women and to keep him out of the Olympic village, which also included him walking and living alone with his teammates.
He was also banned from exercising by his female classmates.
USA Fencing did not immediately respond to a request for comment on pink masks.
But the break-up was praised by US boxer and 2016 Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad.
“Kudos to the team for taking action,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday.
When Hadzic did not participate on Friday, the team lost to Japan and entered the ninth.