Team USA Fencers Wore Pink Masks to Protest Their Teammate Accused of Sexual Assault

Alen Hadzic made it to the Olympics in spite of allegations of sexual misconduct, but his teammates found a way to protest the decision in plain sight.

fencing pink masks
(Image credit: Elsa)

In spite of numerous allegations of sexual assault, Team USA fencer Alen Hadzic made it to the Tokyo Olympics—but his teammates, frustrated with their affiliation with a man that six woman fencers had spoken out about, decided to take a stand. At their Friday match against Japan, three of Hadzic's fellow épée team members wore pink masks in a plain-sight protest against Hadzic, who was banned from the Olympic Village in light of the allegations but allowed to compete under the Team USA umbrella. (Hadzic denies the allegations, which are currently under investigation.)

BuzzFeed News—which initially reported on the shocking circumstances of Hadzic's journey to Tokyo in spite of the multiple female fencers who shared with the Olympic committee that they were "gravely concerned" about his potential behavior in Tokyo—confirmed with fencing sources that the pink masks were a protest against Hadzic and the predatory behavior of which he's accused. One fencer told BuzzFeed's Tasneem Nashrulla and Brianna Sacks: "They wanted to make a distinction between themselves that they didn't stand for sexual assault or abuse against women. These athletes wanted to have a voice where US Fencing and SafeSport failed."

In this photo from Friday, shared by former Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, Hadzic stands behind his teammates—Hadzic in a black face mask, the others in pink:

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While Hadzic served as an épée alternate, meaning he was only going to compete if another teammate was sick or injured—which did not happen—the decision by USA Fencing to bring him to Tokyo and create a "safety plan" to keep him away from women and the Olympic Village was met with widespread horror. "The extra effort to protect Hadzic is yet another reminder of just how differently the rules are applied to a straight white man," wrote Andrew Lawrence in The Guardian.

Jenny Hollander
Digital Director

Jenny is the Director of Content Strategy at Marie Claire. Originally from London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and never left. Prior to Marie Claire, she spent five years at Bustle building out its news and politics coverage. She loves, in order: her dog, goldfish crackers, and arguing about why umbrellas are fundamentally useless. Her first novel, EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD, will be published by Minotaur Books in 2024.