Team USA paintball player Jessica Maiolo is being kicked out of the team after a TikTok video of her fat-shaming a teen COVID patient began circulating online. In the since-deleted clip, the 39-year-old professional athlete was mocking a Miami footballer who spent ten days in the hospital with the virus.
The controversial TikTok showcased Maiolo in front of a news channel reporting on David Espino being hospitalized with the virus. His mother regretted not having the 17-year-old vaccinated sooner as the severe illness could have been prevented.
Jessica Maiolo did not show any sympathy for the sick patient and went on to make “fatphobic” and “anti- vax” statements online:
“Ma’am, your kid does not need a COVID shot. Your kid needs a f***ing treadmill. That’s what he needs.”
As the clip of Maiolo attacking Espino circulated online, the internet called her a “vile human,” “cruel,” “evil,” and “disgusting.” They did not show any sympathy towards her for spreading vaccine misinformation.
Jessica Maiolo and the USA’s paintball team respond to the backlash
Team USA Paintball, not affiliated with the Olympics, released a statement on August 10 where they mentioned that they were cutting ties with the athlete.
The team responded to Jessica Maiolo’s TikTok video through Instagram, saying:
“Our investigation into the troubling conduct of Ms. Maiolo has been concluded, and we have decided to remove her from the team indefinitely.”
They also said:
“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.”
Jessica Maiolo also issued an apology for her actions on Instagram. The video was captioned:
“I am deeply sorry for any attention I have brought to this family.”
In the video, she wrote:
“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.”
She added that it was never her intention to shame any individual and that her reaction to the COVID patient stemmed from her assumption of people believing “they have little hope in the way of staying healthy and being in control of their wellness.”