American cyclist Quinn Simmons was suspended by the Trek-Segafredo team on Thursday after posting antagonistic comments on social media in support of President Donald Trump.
The 2019 junior road race world champion replied to a journalist from the Netherlands who had criticised Trump on Twitter.
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“Regrettably, team rider Quinn Simmons made statements online that we feel are divisive, incendiary, and detrimental to the team, professional cycling, its fans, and the positive future we hope to help create for the sport,” Trek-Segafredo said in a statement.
“(He) will not be racing for Trek-Segafredo until further notice.”
The 19-year-old rider reacted Wednesday when Dutch journalist Jose Been posted on Twitter that she hoped for her American friends that “this horrible presidency ends for you,” adding “if you follow me and support Trump, you can go.”
Simmons replied by writing “Bye” with an emoji of a dark-skinned hand waving.
When a separate account replied “Apparently a Trumper,” Simmons countered “That's right” with a United States flag symbol.
Simmons didn’t mean to offend
Trek-Segafredo, an American team formerly known as RadioSchack-Nissan, later issued a second statement quoting Simmons as saying that he did not mean for the tweets to be offensive.
“To those who found the color of the emoji racist, I can promise that I did not mean for it to be interpreted that way,” Simmons said.
“I would like to apologize to everyone who found this offensive as I strongly stand against racism in any form.
“To anyone who disagrees with me politically, that is fine. I won't hate you for it. I only ask the same.”
The team added that Simmons “was not suspended because of his political views. He was suspended for engaging in conversation on Twitter in a way that we felt was conduct unbefitting a Trek athlete.”
Been later deleted her original post and wrote Thursday that she feels “horrible about the situation and terrible for (at)QuinnSimmons9 to miss his beloved classics. To suspend him would never be my choice.”
Simmons is in his first season with the Trek-Segafredo team, which described him on its website as “at his best in punchy one-day races ... he will be a perfect fit for the Classics team.”
Team Manager Luca Guercilena said he still thinks Simmons “has a bright future as a professional athlete if he can use this opportunity to grow as a person and make a positive contribution for a better future for cycling. We remain committed to helping Quinn as much as we can.”
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