Quinn Simmons: I didn’t deserve to be suspended
Quinn Simmons is set to return to compete with Trek-Segafredo for the first time this spring following a suspension from the team for making public comments on social media that the team deemed “divisive, inflammatory and damaging” last September. In a roundtable interview with selected members of the cycling media on Friday, Simmons said he doesn’t think he deserves to be suspended and is now shifting to his focus on the spring classics.
“For me, I don’t feel like I deserve the suspension,” Simmons told media. “I realize that I didn’t represent the brand the way I should, but missed the Classics [in 2020] and, right away, I’m able to play a big role for the team, and I think sacrificing that was probably not worth it, for me and the team. “
Trek-Segafredo has suspended Simmons following his response to a Twitter post by a cycling journalist ahead of last year’s US election between Donald Trump and current US President Joe Biden. The reporter asked Trump supporters to stop following her on Twitter. Simmons responded by writing “goodbye,” followed by a waving black hand emoji. When Simmons was called a “Trumper” in a response, he responded, “That’s right” with an American flag emoji.
The use of a black hand emoji by a white person online has been repeatedly called racist, and the term ‘digital blackface‘was coined to describe its use.
Trek-Segafredo quickly intervened to announce Simmons’ suspension for “unacceptable conduct of a Trek athlete,” and Simmons apologized the next day, in a team statement, saying, “To those who found the color of the racist emoji, I can promise I didn’t want it interpreted that way. I want to apologize to everyone who found this offensive as I strongly oppose racism in any form. “
In Friday’s roundtable interview, Simmons said his use of the waving black hand emoji was something he heard as a joke. He specifically referred to the “Bye, Felicia” meme, which is sometimes used to express contempt or indifference towards someone, but which is taken from the 1995 comedy film “Friday”.
“Honestly, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the ‘Bye, Felicia’ joke from a movie some time ago. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this, and it’s a pretty good joke. common which I’ve seen many times on social media and something i sent to my friends on social media as a joke. I thought it was more known, seen as a joke and used, and because that’s where I was, and that’s what I thought about [at the time of the social media response].
“Honestly, that’s not even a conversation I had in my head. It was the most recently used emoji color, because when you type it it goes to the most recently used color. [colour], and I had used it for the same purpose before, and when I went to click on it, that’s what it was, and it wasn’t even really a thought. “
Simmons said he regretted responding to social media posts that were political before the U.S. election last year. However, he said he did not understand why the use of a black hand emoji used by a white person online was highlighted as a form of racism. When asked if he now understands, in hindsight, why this upset people, Simmons replied, “If I’m being honest, no, not really.”
“This whole concept of digital blackface, or whatever they want to call it, I’ve never even heard of it, and I don’t think the majority of the population has ever heard of it. If it was two months earlier and not in the middle of an election in the United States, that wouldn’t have been a problem, ”Simmons said.
“It’s 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 start over and stay away from that genre. The whole ‘why’ behind it’s always … I could never have imagined this … it’s absolutely crazy. I’m terrified of emojis that change color. I only use the ones you can’t change the color of now. “
There has been a growing discussion about diversity and inclusiveness, and making the cycling industry as a whole a more welcoming place for people of color across events, teams, organizations and brands. When asked if he personally had a racial bias or inclusion issue, Simmons replied, “Personally, no.”
“It wasn’t a racial issue. The internet made it a racial issue. It was a conversation between me and a white reporter, so there was no race involved. The discussion was not about race, for me, and therefore for her to have become a racial issue, I’m confused by that. I can see people don’t like Trump, but to make it a race issue, that was not part of the discussion. C ‘was a conversation between two white people and completely off topic. ”
In Trek-Segafredo’s original statement after Simmons’ suspension, the team said they would keep fans and the public informed of decisions made on the matter. However, aside from his suspension and apology, the team did not immediately follow up on a public statement on the resolutions reached with Simmons.
Trek-Segafredo press secretary Jacob Kennison confirmed Cycling Friday that Simmons, as part of his learning process, completed a diversity course and media training workshop. Kennison also said the purpose of these is to help Simmons better understand the different perspectives of the world around him and to equip him with the skills and knowledge to conduct himself online in a positive and inclusive way. . “This is just the start in an ongoing process of educating Quinn,” Kennison said.
At the start of the interview, Cyclingnews asked Simmons if he could explain the details of the resolution points, additional media training and any other action taken within the team regarding the social media incident and what he had learned.
Simmons said he felt his suspension was the most important resolution for himself and for the team as he said he missed the Spring Classics portion of the revised schedule. However, he did not immediately speak to what he learned from internal team action points, diversity and inclusion training, or media training.
“Obviously you saw that the suspension was the biggest step, missing a lot of races, but so far since then the focus has been on looking forward to this year and making a crack to the Classics and just preparing for the winter as best I can. I have the support of the team, and I’m happy to be here. As far as my relationship with the team goes, we are completely in it. away. We’re in a very good position. Personally, I’m looking to have a stronger year this year, both on and off the bike, to do my part to support the team, again, on and off biking. “
Thrice, Cycling asked Simmons if he could speak directly to the actions taken in the wake of the incident on social media, Simmons said the entire team had received media training at their team camp over the winter, but he then addressed the question to his press secretary.
“We had quite a media training for the whole team at camp this year, and everyone knew it was because of me, but at the end of the day the goal is to get back to racing my bike because that’s what I “I’m here to do. I’m not here to post on [social media]. I am here to run. It’s been the goal since then, ”said Simmons.
Simmons will start racing with Trek-Segafredo this month and will focus on Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour des Flandres, Paris-Roubaix and Amstel Gold Race. He said he would no longer use social media to publicize his political views and stay away from online political discussions.
“At the end of the day, the feedback I got from both sides of what happened is that people don’t want to hear politics and sports,” Simmons said. “They come to our pages and watch our team because they love biking, riding and watching it.
“My job is to represent the team both on and off the bike in a way that promotes cycling. I’m not a political commentator, and a general rule for all athletes is a space we should stay away. If you watch the comments on any political article or argument around the sport, in general the fans are here to watch. It’s supposed to be a real world distraction. I think anyone who ends up happy and that no one wins. “
Following Simmons’ roundtable interview with the cycling press, a spokesperson for Trek-Segafredo confirmed additional details about the Diversity and Inclusion training that all team athletes and all Trek employees have received. Follow-up;
Trek’s human resources department led the initial online and language training effort that covered a broad understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion. Completion tracking was done to make sure we could establish a common understanding. We have completed a second wave this offseason where we have entered all the athletes and staff in all the teams belonging to Trek, which everyone has completed before the first rally in Spain.
We also did a small group in-person training at our team camp. While the online module was very helpful, we wanted to dig deeper and cover topics that might be more specific to an athlete’s experience.
These represent the start of an effort that we plan to continue to revisit and build upon to grow into something enduring and rooted in the culture of the team.