Quinn Simmons has been pulled from racing by Trek-Segafredo over a “divisive, incendiary, and detrimental” tweet.
The 19-year-old neo-pro became embroiled in controversy overnight when he tweeted his support of Donald Trump and used a black hand emoji.
Simmons, winner of the junior World Championship road race in Yorkshire last year, has now been benched by his team for the online statements which his team said are “divisive, incendiary, and detrimental.”
The controversy unfolded on Wednesday (September 30) when journalist Jose Been condemned US president Donald Trump and urged social media users to unfollow her if they support Trump.
Simmons responded to the tweet saying “bye” with a black waving hand emoji.
The response caused a backlash from many cycling fans on social media aimed at both Simmons and his Trek-Segafredo team, with the US WorldTour squad saying they were “taking this very seriously” and that they would be releasing a statement soon.
Late on Wednesday night the team released the statement, confirmed that Simmons had been benched.
The team said: “Trek-Segafredo is an organisation 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 Simmons 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.”
Trek-Segafredo said they will work with their partners to determine the next steps for Simmons and that the public will be kept informed of any decisions.
The use of a black emoji by a white person online has been equated with blackface, showing a lack of racial awareness and temporarily adopting a racial identity.
Diversity in Cycling said on Twitter: “In Black History Month, it is worth explaining why Quinn Simmons’ tweets were racist. It was not because of his politics, but because he used a black hand gesture.
“This is a form of blackface – a means of racist oppression used by extremist groups.
“No Quinn, the furore is not about your political beliefs, it is about your racism.
“You used a black hand gesture, a form of blackface. You know the history of blackface right?
“Trek-Segafredo 100 per cent correct to suspend you. Listen and learn.”
Simmons, from Durango, Colorado, rose to prominence last season with a number of victories in the junior ranks, which were capped off by a huge solo win in the junior World Championship road race.
At 18 years old, he was then signed to Trek-Segafredo for 2020 on a two-year neo-pro contract.
Simmons will now miss his scheduled debut in the Classics this autumn.
He has yet to respond to the controversy or his suspension.