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Team USA Paintball player kicked off team after backlash over controversial TikTok

Andrea Martinez had just woken up from a nap when she saw the video of her Team USA Paintball teammate.

Her husband had awakened her, telling her something was up with her team, as her phone “was going crazy,” she said. Her teammates, who were competing on the East Coast, were frantically trying to contact her to alert her about the TikTok video that was setting off a firestorm.

Once she opened the video, Martinez could not believe what she was seeing.

Team USA Paintball indefinitely removed player Jessica Maiolo after she posted a viral TikTok video saying a child with Covid-19 needed a “treadmill, not a Covid shot.”via TikTok

Jessica Maiolo, a Team USA Paintball member, had posted a 15-second TikTok video of herself in front of an image of a TV displaying a news story about a teenage boy suffering from Covid-19. “Ma’am, your kid does not need a Covid shot. Your kid needs a f—— treadmill,” Maiolo says in the video, which has been removed. “That’s what he needs.”

“I saw the video, and I was really disappointed,” said Martinez, 39. “It’s not in line with me and my values and the things that I believe in, obviously.” She said the video was extra disappointing because she was at home in Chino, California, battling Covid, despite having been vaccinated.

Maiolo did not respond to multiple requests for comment. She has apologized on her Instagram page.

The video, which NBC News viewed before it was deleted, has caused waves in the paintball community since it was posted Thursday, with some on social media deeming it anti-vaccination and fatphobic. Team USA Paintball indefinitely removed Maiolo from the team in the wake of the backlash.

“We believe that players must at all times consider the weight of their words, and align themselves with the values of our organization,” Team USA Paintball said in a statement Monday, in which it announced that Maiolo had been removed from the team.

Paintball players from the San Diego Dynasty, a professional paintball team, said the video put the sport — which they said is largely a welcoming and warm community — in a negative light.

“A lot of people are paying attention to [paintball] right now, and it absolutely, 110 percent gives us a terrible image,” said Leah Mumford, 24, a former paintball player, adding that the video “is absolutely not a representation of Team USA.”

Some smaller organizations that are tangentially related to Team USA Paintball said they were inundated with messages and backlash, as well, even though they have no connection to Maiolo.

On her Instagram account, Maiolo posted a statement saying that she regrets the situation she has put her teammates in and that, given the chance to go back, she would choose her words more carefully.

“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,” Maiolo wrote in a statement posted Monday.

But the damage, some in the paintball community say, might already have been done.

Alex Fraige, 38, and Ryan Greenspan, 39, who play professional paintball for the San Diego Dynasty, said that paintball is an inclusive sport and that Maiolo’s message shaming someone for the way he looks is antithetical to the values they have learned playing the game.

“It’s unfortunate, because one person’s knee-jerk, crass, ridiculous opinion can reflect now on a whole community of people,” Fraige said. “In no way does she represent the paintball community. Yes, she’s a part of it, but she’s not a spokesperson for it.”

However, some paintball players said, some of the backlash the team has gotten for its handling of Maiolo’s suspension and her ultimate removal largely stems from misunderstandings about how Team USA Paintball operates.

Those on social media who were upset by Maiolo’s comments were further annoyed by posts on Instagram that showed Maiolo at a Team USA Paintball practice in Boston, after the statement saying she had been suspended was released.

Other players noted that Team USA Paintball, which is not a pro organization but rather a small nonprofit team with players from around the country, is not able to pay for its players’ travel. Instead, players pay for their own travel and share things like rental cars and hotel rooms.

So when Maiolo was suspended while she was on the road, she had no choice but to stay with her teammates until they were ready to head to the airport. The team said that while Maiolo was on location during the practice, she did not participate.

Some who spoke to NBC News said they feel Maiolo’s removal is a fitting punishment and that they hope people will not associate one bad TikTok video with an entire community of players.

“I think it was the right call,” Martinez said. “If we’re going to represent all people, we shouldn’t be saying certain things and doing certain things. People look at us and they should feel proud. They shouldn’t feel like this group doesn’t represent us.”

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Pop mogul Simon Cowell was a racing flop with ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec – that didn’t win a penny

SIMON COWELL conquered the music world – but his foray into racing ended in disaster with an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec.

The music mogul, 62, has done it all with bands like One Direction, Little Mix and solo acts Olly Murs and James Arthur, to name but a few.

Cowell owned an 'awful' £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec - but the runner didn't win a single penny in six races

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Cowell owned an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec – but the runner didn’t win a single penny in six racesCredit: PA:Press Association
Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

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Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

His Syco label – plus shows such as Britain’s Got Talent – have dominated the entertainment industry and brought him an estimated net worth of £385m.

A lover of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, he looked perfectly poised to strike a knockout blow in the world of thoroughbreds.

But it turns out his runner was far from No1 in the charts – and never even finished better than fifth during a doomed six-race career.

Things looked promising at the start.

Named It’s A Yes From Me, the runner was trained with the respected James Fanshawe and sent off at 8-1 for his first race in June 2014.

But coming last of five by 13-and-a-half lengths was unfortunately about as good as it got for the gelding.

A month’s rest followed before he was sent off at 40-1 in a six-furlong sprint at Doncaster.

But there he could only manage fifth again, and it was same at Redcar the next month.

‘Dreadfully slow’

By October that year – with further finishes of sixth and tenth – It’s A Yes From Me came second-last in a one-mile race at Kempton.

One analysis of the race warned punters the horse was ‘one to tread carefully’ with.

Well, Cowell and Ant and Dec took that advice to heart as they never raced him again.

The horse was penniless from six races, never finishing high enough to recoup some of that £35,000 investment.

It’s doubtful Cowell, with hundreds of millions in the bank, lost any sleep over that.

But Ant and Dec revealed just how bad things has got with the horse during an interview last year.

Dec said of It’s A Yes From Me: “It was awful, it was a dreadfully slow horse.

“It wasn’t a racehorse it was just a horse, because it didn’t race.

“Every time we got to the BGT studio Simon would say, ‘I keep paying stable fees on this horse, but I’ve never seen it run’.”

Cowell originally wanted to name the nag after himself, but they settled on It’s A Yes From Me when they bought it in 2013.

‘It was awful’

Dec revealed its eventual fate: “I think it got rehomed.”

Of course it’s not all been bad for Cowell at the races.

He was one of the exclusive few at the Epsom Derby in June, having a great time with partner Lauren Silverman and Piers Morgan.

And two weeks later he was at Royal Ascot – where he first discovered his love of racing.

Cowell told SunSport’s Matt Chapman during a chat at Epsom: “I’ve got my son Eric with me today.

“My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this year

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Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this yearCredit: Getty
It's A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races

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It’s A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races
The music supremo tweeted about his horse's bad start... which never got much better

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The music supremo tweeted about his horse’s bad start… which never got much better

Most read in Horse Racing

“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories.

“Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

He hasn’t made that passion the money-maker his music label is, but don’t rule out Cowell staging his own comeback at the track in the near future.

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Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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