A professional paintballer has been kicked off her national team after a video of her mocking a teenager hospitalised with COVID-19 went viral on TikTok.
In the since deleted video, Jessica Maiolo, 31, who plays paintball professionally for Team USA, filmed herself responding to a news report about a 17-year-old boy from Miami who spent 10 days in hospital after contracting the virus.
David Espino, a high school football player, spent more than a week receiving oxygen treatment in hospital, and shared his story to warn others that the ‘pretty scary’ virus could seriously affect young people.
The news clip also included an interview with the boy’s mother, who said she regrets not taking her son to get vaccinated sooner, New York Post reports. Yet, instead of expressing sympathy with the family, Maiolo decided to take the opportunity to both play down the importance of the vaccine and belittle the teenager, saying in a TikTok video, ‘Ma’am your kid does not need a COVID shot…he needs a f**king treadmill.’
Needless to say, her response hasn’t gone down well. Several other users have posted their own videos in response to Maiolo, describing her words as ‘cruel’ and ‘disgusting’, while urging people to draw her employer’s attention to her remarks.
Others pointed out that Maiolo has a history of anti-vax views, and seemed to be implying in her video that the vaccine would not have prevented Espino from getting sick, despite a recent study showing the Pfizer shot is 91% effective in protecting against serious illness and hospitalisation from the Delta variant.
Warning: Explicit Language
@rx0rcistAnd none for Gretchen Weiners bye! ##getvaccinated ##vaccinate ##wearamask ##covid19 ##science ##healthcare♬ original sound – Savannah
Unfortunately for Maiolo, it looks like her unnecessary joke has had real-life repercussions, with Team USA Paintball announcing this week that she would no longer be a part of the team.
In a statement, the team wrote:
Our investigation into the troubling conduct of Ms. Maiolo has been concluded and we have decided to remove her from the team indefinitely.
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 has since issued an apology for her video on Instagram, saying it was ‘never my intention to shame any individual’ and promising to ‘choose my words more carefully and consider how my opinions may affect others’ in the future.
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