The US Men's fencing team made a massive statement on the big stage after they decided to wear pink face masks in protest of a teammate accused of assault.
Olympians Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald, and Yeisser Ramirez showed support for their fellow female fencers after their teammate, Alen Hadzic, was allegedly involved in 3 separate incidents of misconduct. Six women reached out to the Olympic committee earlier this year to ask that Hadzic be removed from the team as they continued their investigation, but for some reason, he was allowed to stay on the team.
On May 20th, they wrote: "We are gravely concerned about the impact Mr. Hadzic's potential presence will have on other Team USA athletes."
According to Buzzfeed, the alleged perpetrator's allegations stem all the way back to 2010. Former fencer, Katya English, alleged that he pressured her to continue during an encounter even when she asked him to stop, and then only 3 years later, he was accused of a similar incident again during a dorm party which then led to his suspension from Columbia University.
However, rather than being listened to and empathized with, 2 months after the letter was given in to the committee, the women were forced to accept that Hadzic had made the cut on the Olympic team. But they aren't letting him get away with it, that's for sure. And, in solidarity, the men's fencing team organized this simple yet effective protest during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics against host nation, Japan. Each Olympian wore pink masks to stand with their female teammates and other survivors. Hadzic turned up in his black mask, which stood out tremendously from the crowd.
The twenty-nine-year-old has fiercely denied the allegations against him, and he even went as far as asking his teammates for a pink mask, but they refused to give him one. It wasn't until he saw photos of their protest that he realized what went on.
Speaking to USA Today, he said this: "They never asked me for my side of the story. They never asked for evidence or how I felt.
"I just remember thinking it would be kind of silly if I stood out there with a black mask and I asked them if they had an extra (pink) one, and they go, 'Oh, no,' " he added.
Jackie Dubrovich, a member of the U.S. fencing team, wrote on her Instagram story: "Performative activism does not address the issue at hand here. ... Female athletes were not protected and our safety was deemed unimportant."
So while the statement was good at raising awareness, now comes the difficulty of actually eradicating abuse against women from sports. Even though the concept shouldn't be hard... just think, we're in 2021 and this type of violence against women is still brushed under the rug, while perpetrators are allowed to stand on one of the biggest stages in the world and represent their national team. Wow. Let's just hope all the survivors get the justice they deserve.