A professional paintballer has been cut from Team USA Paintball after posting a video on TikTok in which she body shamed a teenager hospitalized with Covid-19, which also resulted in her being banned from TikTok.
Jessica Maiolo posted a video to her TikTok page, responding to an ABC World News Tonight story, covering the rise in Covid-19 cases in America amidst the Delta variant, with a record number of children being admitted to hospitals.
The story interviewed 17-year-old high school football player David Espino, hospitalized with Covid and developing pneumonia.
David's mother, Marciela went on to tell ABC she regrets not getting her son vaccinated.
Maiolo took to TikTok and posted a video of herself in front of a paused frame of David lying in his hospital bed, his masked mother by his side.
Speaking directly to the camera, Maiolo declared:
"Ma'am, your kid does not need a Covid shot."
"Your kid needs a f'king treadmill, that's what he needs."
The video caught the attention of Savannah Sparks, a Mississippi based doctor of pharmacy, who has made it her mission to call out medical misinformation on TikTok.
Sparks posted a follow up-video to Maiolo's.
WARNING: NSFW language
And none for Gretchen Weiners bye! #getvaccinated #vaccinate #wearamask #covid19 #science #healthcare
In the video, Sparks calmly told Maiolo being a member of Team USA Paintball doesn't qualify her to "speak out on public health issues."
She went on to say she intended to keep messaging Team USA Paintball until Maiolo was removed from the team, stating:
"You are not a representation of this country. Get vaccinated."
Sparks response has now received over 4.5 million views and others were quick to respond.
Some applauded her for calling Maiolo out—a few even announcing they would join Sparks in contacting Team USA Paintball—while others simply expressed horror at Maiolo's words.
Whether or not it was the result of Sparks helping Maiolo's insensitive remarks go viral is unclear.
But Team USA Paintball announced Maiolo was removed from the team "indefinitely" in a statement posted to their Facebook page.
"Team USA Paintball has no tolerance for discrimination or bullying of any kind."
"It has always been our highest priority to represent our country with integrity and respect."
"Our investigation into the troubling conduct of Ms. Maiolo has been concluded and we have decided to remover her from the team indefinitely."
As reported by Insider, Maiolo also found herself banned from TikTok, as a result of "multiple Community Guidelines violations."
In response to her dismissal and ban, not to mention the abundant backlash against her, Maiolo took to Instagram to issue an apology of sorts.
In a video reminiscent of a teleprompter screen, Maiolo said:
"What started out as me expressing my personal opinion about something I feel quite passionately about, has turned into a moment of regret for the situation I have put my teammates, our sponsors and the sport I love into."
She went on to say if she were to post the video now, she would "choose her words more carefully."
She also attempted to justify what exactly she meant by her "treadmill" remark.
"It was never my intention to shame any individual, my reaction to the story about the young boy actually comes from a place of deep fear that people believe they have little hope in the way of staying healthy and being in control of their own wellness.
She ended the video by claiming her teammates and sponsors were also targeted due to her poorchoices and made a plea for this to stop.
Maiolo disabled comments on her post, but Sparks shared it on her own Instagram page.
In addition to questioning whether or not Maiolo did, in fact, apologize, Sparks said in her caption:
"Leave healthcare to the professionals, and leave the bigotry altogether, or get used to this kind of backlash."
Spark's Instagram followers were equally confused as to whether or not Maiolo was sincere in her apology, or if there even was one.
In what can only be described as a last ditch effort to save herself, Maiolo released a statement to Insider, claiming her "treadmill" statement about Espino was taken "out of context" and her initial post, which has since been deleted, also included a caption about healthy eating habits.
She did offer a more formal apology to Espino in a subsequent statement, though never addressing him by name, as well as anyone else who was "hurt" by her initial video.
"Bullying' was never my intention. I would also be grateful for the opportunity to apologize to this teenager and his family privately."
Sparks also made it clear to Insider in addition to contacting TeamUSA Paintball in response to Maiolo's video, she contacted her sponsors.
She never contacted Maiolo's teammates and does not condone threats.