A professional paintballer has been kicked off the team for making fun of a teenager infected with COVID-19 and saying he doesn’t need the vaccine but instead, “a f–king treadmill.”
31-year-old Jessica Maiolo posted a since-deleted video on TikTok about the Miami teen, who spent 10 days in the hospital with the virus, and how his mother said she’d wished she’d gotten him the vaccine sooner before things got really bad.
“Ma’am your kid does not need a COVID shot,” Maiolo said.
“Your kid needs a f–king treadmill. That’s what he needs.”
Outraged users reported Maiolo’s comments to Team USA Paintball, and the group decided they were cutting ties with the athlete.
“Our investigation into the troubling conduct of Ms. Maiolo has been concluded and we have decided to remove her from the team indefinitely,” the team wrote in a statement posted to their Instagram account, saying the decision is “final and in effect immediately.”
“Playing for Team USA Paintball means representing the sport at the highest level and being a leader both on and off the field. We are an eclectic mix of culture, opinions and ideas – and that’s what makes our sport so great. We cannot tear each other down, both within our community and out. We are hopeful that this will serve as a valuable lesson for anyone paying attention.”
Maiolo released a statement on Instagram early Monday saying it was “never my intention to shame any individual.”
“What started out as me expressing my personal opinion about something I feel quite passionately about, has turned into a moment of regret for the situation I have put my teammates, our sponsors and the sport I love into,” the statement reads.
“If I were to have such a moment again to convey my full thoughts, I would choose my words more carefully and consider how my opinions may affect others,” the statement continues.
“As may be evident by the hobbies I have, I am a passionate individual. My fire is the same for paintball and fitness as it is for self advocacy and all of the things that make me proud to live where I do.”
Maiolo wrote she has “learned a lot about the power of my reach” in the last 24 hours and said she’ll “be more responsible with it” in the future.
“I appreciate the opportunity to see this situation from the viewpoint of others, and to learn where I can do better and will. I hope that I may inspire others to realize the power of their words too.”