American cyclist's black hand emoji in response to Trump bashing reason for indefinite suspension, team says

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American cyclist Quinn Simmons was indefinitely suspended over a Twitter conversation in a way the team “felt was conduct unbefitting a Trek athlete” and not for his apparent support for President Trump, the team Trek-Segafredo said Thursday.

Simmons received the discipline after an interaction on social media with Dutch journalist Jose Been. Simmons responded to Been’s tweet in which she said she hoped for her American friends that “this horrible presidency ends for you,” adding “if you follow me and support Trump, you can go.”

Simmons replied to Been, saying “Bye” with a dark-skinned hand emoji. Her tweet was later deleted and it appeared that Trek-Segafredo took issue with the icon, which apparently has racist connotations.

He also had two other politically charged interactions.

The rider addressed the issue in a statement.

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“As an American rider, I have always been proud to represent my country. Riding for an American team has been a lifelong dream," he said.  "A big reason I chose this team was because of the American values behind it.

“To those who found the color of the emoji racist, I can promise that I did not mean for it to be interpreted that way," Simmons continued. "I would like to apologize to everyone who found this offensive as I strongly stand against racism in any form.

“To anyone who disagrees with me politically, that is fine. I won’t hate you for it," he added. "I only ask the same.”

Luca Guercilena, the team’s manager, added that he hoped Simmons could “use this opportunity to grow as a person and make a positive contribution for a better future for cycling.”

While Trek-Segafredo said in its second statement that Simmons wasn’t suspended for his political views, the team said initially that Simmons was suspended for “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.”

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In response to the suspension, Been wrote that she felt “horrible” about it and that she wouldn’t have wanted Simmons to be suspended.

Simmons was in his first season with Trek-Segafredo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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