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American neo-pro Quinn Simmons, a 19-year-old who signed to Trek-Segafredo after his junior world championship in Yorkshire in 2019, has been pulled from racing by his team following an incendiary tweet.
“Regrettably, team rider Quinn Simons made statements online that we feel are divisive, incendiary, and detrimental to the team, professional cycling, its fans, and the positive future we hope to help create for the sport,” the team said.
“In response, he will not be racing for Trek-Segafredo until further notice.”
Simmons expressed support for current US President Donald Trump, which in itself was not what landed him in hot water. Rather it was his use of a dark brown emoji, a sort of Internet blackface that, at the very least, shows a lack of racial awareness from a white rider.
Simmons’ response set off a firestorm on social media, further dragging a brand, Trek, that has already been in hot water with some over its decision to continue selling bikes to American police.
Simmons was responding to a tweet from CyclingTips contributor José Been, who is Dutch, regarding the US Presidential debate. CyclingTips does not prevent its contributors from expressing political views on personal social media accounts.
Trek-Segafredo immediately responded on Twitter, denouncing Simmons’ comments.
In the hours that followed, internal discussions continued within Trek and the Trek-Segafredo team, in which Simmons agreed to additional media training. The full text of the team statement reads:
“Trek-Segafredo is an organization that values inclusivity and supports a more diverse and equitable sport for all athletes. While we support the right to free speech, we will hold people accountable for their words and actions.
Regrettably, team rider Quinn Simons made statements online that we feel are divisive, incendiary, and detrimental to the team, professional cycling, its fans, and the positive future we hope to help create for the sport.
In response, he will not be racing for Trek-Segafredo until further notice.
The team and its partners will work together to determine how we will move forward and keep fans and the public informed as to the decisions made in the matter.”
Simmons was scheduled to race the upcoming northern Classics for the first time.
It was not Simmons’ first racially-charged dispute. Shortly after protests over the murders of Black men and women erupted across the United States this summer, American pro Cory Williams, who is Black, posted a series of Instagram posts outlining his excellent junior and espoir results and subsequent lack of selection to US national development programs. The color of his skin, he has said, had played a role in that lack of selection.
“I’ve struggled in my career,” Williams wrote. “I’ve been one of the top cyclists in America even the best at my age at one point. I’ve been national champion and won a stage race overall, won a green jersey, won over 20 state championships and been top 20 at national road races as a junior and never been able to represent America on the national team.”
Simmons responded to Williams via direct message, saying he was simply not fast enough. Williams then used a screenshot to share Simmons’ message with his 85,000 Instagram followers. Simmons later apologized, stating that he was defending Billy Innes, the longtime head of USA Cycling’s development program, not questioning Williams’ ability.