Team USA Paintball player Jessica Maiolo has been booted off the squad after she was accused of ‘fat-shaming’ a teenager hospitalized for COVID-19 by saying he needs ‘a f**king treadmill’ rather than a vaccine.
The team, which is not affiliated with the Olympics, announced on Monday they were cutting ties with Maiolo, 31, after she shared a video on TikTok where she scornfully reacted to a news report about David Espino, 17, a Florida high school football player.
The video earned furious backlash, with commenters comparing her to a ‘Hallmark Christmas movie villain’ for ridiculing a sick child and calling on her team to kick her out.
In a statement announcing her removal ‘effective immediately’, the Team USA Paintball wrote: ‘Our investigation into the troubling conduct of Ms. Maiolo has been concluded and we have decided to remove her from the team indefinitely.’
Team USA Paintball player Jessica Maiolo (pictured) was booted off the squad on Monday after she was accused of ‘fat-shaming’ a teenager hospitalized for COVID-19 by saying he needs ‘a f**king treadmill’ rather than a vaccine
Maiolo, 31, after she shared a video on TikTok where she scornfully reacted to a news report about David Espino, 17, a Florida high school football player
‘Playing for Team USA Paintball means representing the sport at the highest level and being a leader both on and off the field,’ the statement continued.
‘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.’
Following her removal from the team, Maiolo shared a statement on Instagram 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,’ Maiolo added.
On TV: Jessica, who is from Greenville, North Carolina, recently captured herself watching an ABC News report about rising COVID cases affecting children
In the report, high school football player David Espino, 17, spoke out about his experience battling the illness for 10 days in the hospital, where he was hooked up to oxygen
‘Ma’am, your kid does not need a COVID shot. Your kid needs a f***in’ treadmill. That’s what he needs,’ she said with a smug smile
Maiolo— who is from Greenville, North Carolina, recently captured herself watching an ABC News report about rising COVID cases affecting children.
In the report, Espino spoke out about his experience battling the illness for 10 days in the hospital, where he was hooked up to oxygen.
‘It’s pretty scary,’ he said, warning viewers that anyone could get the virus.
In a video that’s captured the attention of thousands of other TikTokers, Jessica paused the screen on an image of the hospitalized teen and his worried mother.
But Jessica clearly had no sympathy for David or his parents.
‘Ma’am, your kid does not need a COVID shot. Your kid needs a f***in’ treadmill. That’s what he needs,’ she said with a smug smile.
Who is the hospitalized teen Jessica Maiolo mocked on TikTok?
David Espino, 17, has been in an ICU bed at Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for ten days when his story made headlines on August 6.
He was looking forward to playing in the upcoming football season at his school when he began experiencing tightness in his chest and a headache.
Two days later, he tested positive for the COVID-19 Delta variant, and went on to develop pneumonia. as well.
His mother, Maricel Espino, told WPLG she regrets not getting him vaccinated sooner.
‘I thought it wasn’t as severe in kids but when I saw him every day, it was getting worse and worse. At one point it got very scary when his oxygen started to decrease but you know thankfully we are in the hospital and they were able to address that,’ she told CBS Miami.
David, meanwhile, said he wants to see a mask mandate.
‘I believe COVID is nowhere near gone. I believe we should keep masks in place and that will keep things safer in school,’ he said.
Jessica has since deleted the video, but not before it was captured by a fellow TikTok user named Savannah, who was disgusted by the content.
‘Jessica, as a member of Team USA paintball, I really don’t think you’re qualified on public health issues,’ Savannah said.
‘Especially when not when it’s to fat-shame a hospitalized teenager who probably didn’t have a say in his vaccination status.’
‘And I don’t think my father, the inventor of Toaster Strudel, would too pleased to hear about this,’ she quipped, referencing a popular line from the movie Mean Girls.
‘So I messaged them,’ she went on, referring to Team USA Paintball.
‘And I’ll keep messaging them every day, until you’re off the team. Because you are not a representation of this country.’
Savannah also included a screenshot of her message to the team, which read: ‘Does your organization condone fat shaming and COVID-19 misinformation? Because that’s exactly what Ms. Jessi Maiolo is doing on TikTok. Please advise.’
The video has quickly gone viral, and comments have poured in from horrified viewers.
‘Not very pro-life of her,’ wrote one.
‘I’m appalled [by] her. You see someone hurting and this is your response? Was she trying to be funny?’ wrote another.
Yet another commenter called her ‘cruel for no reason,’ while others called her ‘so evil,’ ‘ignorant,’ ‘a vile human,’ and ‘disgusting.’
Several commenters called for her to be kicked off her team.
‘I’m just waiting for her to play victim like every other childish adult who can’t be bothered to think before they post anything,’ wrote one.
Tracked down: Jessica has since deleted the video, but not before it was captured by a fellow TikTok user named Savannah , who was disgusted by the content
Well? She messaged the team asking them whether they ‘condone fat shaming and COVID-19 misinformation’
Team USA initially suspended Maiolo due to the backlash, writing in a public statement saying, ‘until we can achieve a satisfactory level of due process.’
Due process would indicate fair treatment through the judicial system, but as Maiolo wasn’t accused of committing any crime, it’s unclear what Team USA Paintball meant by the phrase.
‘We try to respect every individual’s right to have opinions and express them personally. However, we completely understand that the actions of one of our players was incredibly inappropriate and insensitive and we do not condone it. Her opinions are hers alone and do not speak for the team, an organization, a sponsor, or a sport,’ they wrote.
‘We do fully understand the backlash, and while we don’t share the same views of any particular player, we do feel that it is important to note that everyone that plays for the organization represent different beliefs, come from different backgrounds, and do not always agree on many things.
‘But we come together respectful of each other’s points of view. That is something we are incredibly proud of,’ they continued.
Team USA Paintball released a statement saying that all of its players have different opinions and they are ‘respectful’ of these different views
The team said that Maiolo’s actions ‘are not representative of our efforts or our mission,’ but condemned those who have spoken out to criticize her.
‘We do not believe anything positive ever comes from the condemning of shaming and bullying with more shaming and bullying,’ they said.
Hundreds of comments poured in on Team USA Paintball’s Facebook post, with many saying that their statement and actions aren’t good enough, describing the statement as ‘fence-riding,’ and ‘indecisive’ and pointing out that it contained no apology.
‘This is a pathetic statement,’ wrote one commenter, accusing the organization of playing both sides.
‘Sounded good except: ‘suspended until…’ Talk about sketchy. Way to just roll over & let the world know how weak America is, & solidly confirm how morally bankrupt the entire planet already believes we are. This is so disappointing,’ said another.
‘Yall really just said a whole lot of nothing didn’t you,’ wrote a third.
Still there? They claimed to have suspended her ‘until we can achieve a satisfactory level of due process,’ but she was seen at practice hours later
Maiolo has been compared to a ‘Hallmark Christmas movie villain’ for ridiculing a sick child
Sorry not sorry: Maiolo has since released a statement saying she will be more ‘responsible’ in the future and hopes the teen she mocked ‘is well’
‘Respecting a different opinion isn’t the same as being okay with one of your team members fat shaming a kid potentially dying from a highly contagious disease,’ argued one more.
‘Different backgrounds’ doesn’t justify her hate filled heart. How broken a human being must be to bully and harass a sick hospitalized child. Shame on your whole team,’ said yet another.
The backlash has continued to grow when it was discovered that Maiolo didn’t appear to actually be suspended at all, and was pictured on a teammate’s Instagram at a practice since the suspension was announced.
DailyMail.com has reached out to Team USA Paintball for comment.
In addition, Maiolo also 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.