Quinn Simmons has said he doesn't think he deserved the suspension for the divisive social media comments made last year, which saw the American miss his debut Classics season.
The 19-year-old also said he didn't think the tweeting of a black hand emoji, which he claims was meant as a reference to the 'Bye Felicia' meme, which originates from the 1995 film 'Friday' starring rapper Ice Cube, wasn't a racial issue until the internet made it a racial issue.
"For me, I don't feel like I deserved the suspension. I realise that I didn't represent the brand in the way that I was supposed to, but to have missed the Classics [in 2020] 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," Simmons said.
"This wasn't a racial issue. The internet made it a racial issue. This was a conversation between me and a white journalist, so there was no race involved. The discussion wasn't about race, for me, and so for it to have become a racial issue, I'm confused by that. I can see people not liking Trump, but to make it an issue of race, that wasn't part of the discussion. It was a conversation between two white people and completely irrelevant."
"Honestly, it wasn't even a conversation I had in my head. It was the most recently used emoji colour, because when you type it in, it goes to the most recently used [colour], and I had used it before for the same purpose, and when I went to click on it, that's what it was, and it wasn't even really a thought."
While Simmons acknowledges that team-wide media training at Trek-Segafredo's pre-season training camp was because of his actions at the end of last year, the team's press officer told Cycling News that the aim was to help Simmons better understand different world views, as well as to educate him on how to represent himself online.
Simmons said he still doesn't understand why people were upset by the use of the black hand emoji, and that he wasn't aware of the concept of 'digital blackface'.
“If I’m honest, no, not really. This whole concept of this digital blackface, or whatever they want to call it, I had never even heard of that, and I think the majority of the population hadn’t heard of it,” he said. “If this had been two months earlier, and not in the middle of an election in the USA, I think this would have been a non-issue. This is really something new that I don’t fully understand, and I think a lot of people don’t understand. Obviously, what I’ve learned is to not do it again and to stay away from this type of discussion. But, the whole why behind it, really is...I could never have imagined this.”
Simmons will start his 2021 season this weekend at the Faun-Ardèche Classic and Royal Bernard Drome Classic in France. He will then race Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan - San Remo in Italy before making his debut in the major cobbled Classics of Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders.
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