The U.S. Men's Fencing Team Wore Pink in Protest of a Teammate Accused of Assault

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U.S. men's fencing team
U.S. men's fencing team

Elsa, Getty Images

If you were watching the Olympics on July 30th, you might have noticed something going on with the U.S. men's fencing team and their face masks. Before the team competed against Japan, three of the men were wearing pink face masks while one of them, Alen Hadzic, wore black, and as it turns out, it was actually in protest of Hadzic being allowed to participate in the Games after sexual misconduct allegations had been made against him.

Earlier this year, six women fencers wrote to the Olympic committee to ask that Hadzic be removed from the team as he was being investigated for three incidents of sexual misconduct.

According to BuzzFeed News, the allegations against Hadzic go back to when he was in college in 2010, when former fencer Katya English alleged that he pressured her to continue during a sexual encounter even when she asked him to stop. Three years later, he was accused again of sexual abuse in a dorm during a party, which led to his suspension from Columbia University, though he was able to return after his suspension and earn his degree.

None of this has kept Hadzic from the team, though, so in protest, his teammates, Jake Hoyle, Curtis McDowald, and Yeisser Ramirez, wore their pink masks in support of female fencers.

Hadzic has always denied the allegations against him, and as he told USA Today, he originally asked his teammates for a pink mask, too, but they wouldn't give one to him—and after he saw a photo of him standing beside the other men, he realized what was going on.

"They never asked me for my side of the story," he said. "They never asked for evidence or how I felt."

After the event, Ramirez took to Instagram to share a photo with McDowald and Hoyle as they wore their matching masks, keeping his caption simple with three pink heart emojis.

Maybe this protest will end up bringing about change for future Olympic games, but between this and what former gymnast McKayla Maroney has revealed about her time competing, it sounds like the Olympics has a lot of work to do before the next go-round.