Jessica Maiolo, a paintball player for Team USA, has been kicked off the team after posting a viral TikTok over the weekend seemingly shaming a child who was hospitalized for COVID-19.
The TikTok, which has since been deleted, shows Maiolo standing in front of an ABC segment about the number of children hospitalized for COVID-19 surging across the U.S. The segment includes a photo of an apparent teenager lying in a hospital bed.
“Ma’am, your kid does not need a COVID shot. Your kid needs a f***ing treadmill,” Maiolo then says. “That’s what he needs.”
in the U.S. Nearly 94,000 children were reported to have contracted COVID-19 between July 29 and August 5, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The majority of the affected are too young to be eligible for the available vaccines, or their families are unvaccinated.
Maiolo has apparently deleted her TikTok account.
After Team USA Paintball said on Saturday that Maiolo had been suspended from the program while they were investigating the incident, the organization said in a statement Monday she is officially off the team. The team said it has “no tolerance for discrimination or bullying of any kind.”
Maiolo is not listed on the team’s website.
“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 said, adding that the decision is “final and in effect immediately.”
“We believe that players must at all times consider the weight of their words, and align themselves with the values of our organization. We believe that players must always consider how their personal actions will affect others. We must hold ourselves to a higher standards and set the bar for what it means to treat others with the respect in which we wish to be treated.”
Maiolo posted a statement on Instagram on Monday, saying she’s “deeply sorry” for drawing attention to the family. Her reason for posting the video, she said, was because of her “fire” for fitness and self advocacy.
“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 said. “…It was never my intention to shame any individual, my reaction to the story about the young boy actually comes from a place of deep fear that people believe they have little hope in the way of staying healthy and being in control of their own wellness.”
She said that there is much she “may not know” about the boy she criticized in the video, but that she does “hope that he is well.”
Another player on the team, Andrea Martinez, said on Instagram that Maiolo’s comments “do not align with my values and character.”
“I have dedicated my life to helping other people and fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable in our communities. I believe that the way to true change is lifting others up and being a positive example instead of tearing people down,” she wrote.