Team Trek on Thursday suspended 19-year-old American cycling hopeful Quinn Simmons from racing "until further notice" after he posted pro-Donald Trump tweets which the team described as "divisive, incendiary and damaging".
Simmons, who is white, responded to a tweet by cycling journalist Jose Been that read "if you follow me and support Trump, you can go", by posting the word "bye" and a hand-waving emoji in a black skin tone.
Announcing the suspension, the team called the post "divisive, inflammatory and harmful to the team, professional cycling."
"He will not be racing for Trek-Segafredo until further notice."
Later, the team clarified the reason for the suspension in a second statement.
"Quinn Simmons has not been suspended for his political opinions. He was suspended for engaging in a conversation on Twitter in a way that we felt was inappropriate for a Trek athlete," it said.
The statement included an explanation from the rider.
"For those who find the colour of the emoji racist, I can promise you that it was not my intention that it should be interpreted in this way," said Simmons.
"I would like to apologise to all those who found it offensive because I am firmly opposed to racism in all its forms".
Simmons joined Trek-Segafredo this year after winning the 2019 junior road world championship in England.