2020 Tokyo Olympics: Why are Team USA Fencers Protesting?

by Anna Dunn

The United States fencing team is protesting by wearing pink masks in a stand taken against their own teammate. This is a man who they are competing alongside at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. When the U.S Men’s épée team entered the competition on Friday, three of the four-team members were wearing pink masks.

The fourth member not wearing a pink mask was Alen Hadzic. Hadzic, whose on the team as an alternate, is facing multiple sexual assault allegations. The pink masks are to show support for sexual assault victims.

In the powerful image, you can clearly see Hadzic not wearing a pink mask. Meanwhile, his teammates, Curtis McDowald, Jacob Hoyle, and Yeisser Ramirez stood in protest of him. Alen Hadzic did not compete on Friday, and the US team ultimately lost to Japan.

Hadzic Recieved a Suspension before Attending The 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Hadzic received a suspension from the U.S Center for SafeSport after three women accused him of sexual assault. One accusation came from one of his fencing teammates in 2013, which lead him to a one-year title IX suspension from his college.

Meanwhile, Hadzic has maintained that all sexual assault accusations are false.

When Hadzic qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, his accusers went to SafeSport with their concerns. On June 29th, an arbitrator overturned Hadzic’s SafeSport suspension, allowing him to compete.

Many question why Hadzic, who is banned from the Olympic Village, is still allowed to compete. When Hadzic was allowed to compete as an alternate, he had to do everything separately from his teammates. They flew separately, and Hadzic has to stay in a hotel away from other athletes. This was imposed by the committee as a part of a “safety plan.”

USA Today obtained an e-mail where USA Fencing CEO Kris Ekeren wrote to Hadzic about the strict rules they had set in place for him.

“Team athletes have expressed concerns for their safety and well-being arising from your presence, which they say are likely to adversely affect their mental and emotional abilities to prepare and compete at the highest levels required for success in the Olympic Games,” the email read.

“Several have asked that USA Fencing put measures in place to keep them safe and minimize distractions from training and competition. Accordingly, USA Fencing, in conjunction with the USOPC, will implement a safety plan for the upcoming Olympic Games,” she wrote.

The Fencing Team Has Sent Hadzic a Clear Message

Hadzic’s attorneys have filed a complaint on his behalf.

“Fundamentally, (USA Fencing) wants to hide Mr. Hadzic and keep him from participating in the Olympic experience that he has rightfully earned,” his attorney wrote.

But even without the visual aid of the masks, it’s clear that the fencing team doesn’t want him there. One women’s fencer, Katharine Holmes, collected petition signatures from every member of the U.S fencing team in support of banning Hadzic from competitions. Hadzic’s lawyer has disputed the idea that every team member has signed.

The Olympics are typically a time for triumph and sportsmanship, but they’ve also served as a platform for protest. This year, the US fencing team came not just to compete, but to take a stand.