Quinn Simmons, who was suspended last year by Trek-Segafredo for what the team called “conduct unbefitting a Trek athlete,” has said that he does not feel like he deserved to be suspended.
On September 30 of last year, Simmons posted a tweet that included the word “Bye” and an emoji of a Black hand waving in response to a tweet from a cycling journalist saying that supporters of Donald Trump could unfollow her. Trek-Segafredo then announced that it had suspended him, and followed that announcement up with another one clarifying that he “was not suspended because of his political views,” but “for engaging in conversation on Twitter in a way that we felt was conduct unbefitting a Trek athlete.”
On Friday, Simmons addressed his suspension in a media appearance.
“For me, I don’t feel like I deserved the suspension,” Simmons said, according to Cyclingnews. “I realize that I didn’t represent the brand in the way that I was supposed to, but to have missed the Classics and, straight up, I’m able to play a big role for the team, and I think to sacrifice that was probably, definitely, not worth it, for myself and the team.”
Cyclingnews reports that Simmons said that his use of the emoji of a Black hand waving was a meant as a joke in reference to the “Bye, Felicia” meme, which has its origins in the 1995 film “Friday.”
Simmons also said he still understand why people would be upset about his use of the emoji.
“This whole concept of digital blackface, or whatever they want to call it, I had never even heard of that, and I don’t think the majority of the population had ever heard of it. If it had been two months earlier and not in the middle of an election in the US, it would have been a non-issue,” Simmons said.
“This is really something new that I don’t fully understand, and a lot of people don’t understand. Obviously, what I’ve learned is not to do it again, and to stay away from this kind of discussion. The whole ‘why’ behind it is still … I could never have imagined this … it is absolutely crazy. I’m terrified of any color-changing emojis. I only use ones that you can’t change the color now.”
Trek-Segafredo has said that Simmons completed a diversity workshop, and Simmons said that the team received media training over the offseason.
“We had a whole media training for the entire team at camp this year, and everyone knew that it was thanks to me, but at the end of the day, the focus is to get back to racing my bike because that is what I’m here to do,” Simmons said.
He also said that he plans to avoid posting about politics on social media now.
Simmons, who won the 2019 junior world road title, is due to make his first start since the suspension on Saturday at the Faun-Ardèche Classic in France.