Trek-Segafredo has suspended American rider Quinn Simmons for publishing comments to social media that the team considered divisive, incendiary, and detrimental, and that added to the divisive conversation concerning US President Donald Trump and the upcoming presidential election.
"Trek-Segafredo is an organization that values inclusivity and supports a more diverse and equitable sport for all athletes. While we support the right to free speech, we will hold people accountable for their words and actions," read the Trek-Segafredo statement.
"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.
"In response, he will not be racing for Trek-Segafredo until further notice.
"The team and its partners will work together to determine how we will move forward and keep fans and the public informed as to the decisions made in the matter."
Simmons took to Twitter on Wednesday in response to a post from cycling journalist and commentator José Been about the upcoming US election whereby she stated: “My dear American friends, I hope this horrible presidency ends for you. And for us as (former?) allies too. If you follow me and support Trump, you can go. There is zero excuse to follow or vote for the vile, horrible, man”, to which Simmons replied “bye” with an emoji of a hand with black skin tone waving.
When Simmons was referred to as a “Trumper” in a reply, he responded: “That’s right” with an emoji of an American flag.
A backlash on Twitter followed with some referring to Simmons’ use of an emoji of a hand with black skin tone as a form of racism and suggested that they would no longer purchase a bike from his trade team’s title sponsor Trek Bikes. Some also said that Simmons should be removed from Trek-Segafredo.
Trek-Segafredo issued an immediate statement in response to Simmons’ Twitter posts saying that the team does not condone the comments or actions from their rider that add to divisive conversations.
“In response to the above, Trek-Segafredo does not condone comments or actions from its riders that add to divisive conversations. The Team will work with Quinn to help him understand the appropriate tone of conversation an athlete in his position should maintain,” Trek-Segafredo wrote in a post on Twitter.
“We’re committed to making the sport of cycling a truly diverse and equitable space for all riders. We will be putting out a public statement soon.”
Trek faced backlash earlier this year when Trek-sponsored police bicycles were being used as weapons against people in Black Lives Matter protests that were held across the US. The Black Lives Matter protested erupted after George Floyd was killed by police during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May, with protests being held all over the world.
US police officers used their bicycles against people who were protesting against police brutality, systemic racism, and justice for Floyd’s death. Images and video footage swept across social media channels showing officers holding up bike brands such as Trek and Fuji, and using them as weapons and shields.
Trek Bikes president John Burke expressed concerns over police brutality and racism in the US, at that time, and called for justice in a blog on the Trek website. Trek Bikes later released a statement saying that it “committed to a better future” and outlined several initiatives and funds to create more cycling industry jobs for people of colour, to open stores in underserved neighbourhoods, and to create a more inclusive culture at the company.
However, Trek Bikes continued to face criticism on how it dealt with the police brutality during the Black Lives Matter protests. Trek Bikes was urged to divest from police businesses, according to a report in Forbes. The company said that US police forces using their bikes as weapons during the protests was “abhorrent”, but it did not stop selling bicycles to police departments.
Systemic racism is a problem in cycling’s highest echelons. The UCI has reiterated its commitment to diversity through its own World Cycling Centre programme and has pointed to several strategies it has taken in recent years to address racism.
However, the sport’s governing body has been criticised for not stepping in to sanction or punish those who have violated its own code of ethics when it comes to racism. Black athletes have come forward to describe their experiences with racism in the sport, including French track sprinter and Olympic medallist Grégory Baugé, Natnael Berhane, Teniel Campbell and Kévin Reza, who spoke about racism in the peloton and the lack of solidarity in professional cycling during this year’s Tour de France.
During the final stage of the Tour de France this year, riders came together to show their support and solidarity for Reza, who was the only Black rider in the three-week race and racing for B&B Hotels-Vital Concept. Reza, who is from Yvelines, started the stage 21, from Mantes-la-Jolie and into Paris, on the front of the race in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The riders of the peloton came together to denounce racism by wearing masks with 'no to racism' written across them during the pre-stage ceremony.
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