A fan attending a Minnesota Vikings home game says he was the target of hate speech after another fan accosted him and demanded to know whether he was a refugee.
In a first-person essay for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Deepinder Mayell, an attorney and director of the Refugee and Immigrant Program at the Advocates for Human Rights, says another fan pointed at his face and asked if he was a refugee. Mayell writes that he is a football fan who was attending his first NFL game.
Mayell writes he has lived in Minnesota for four years and was born and raised in New York.
“It was also abundantly clear that he didn’t know about refugees, dignity or freedom,” Mayell wrote about the fan in the essay. “He didn’t know that if he were speaking to a refugee, he’d be speaking to someone who feared persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group. He didn’t know that many refugees are victims of some of the worst human-rights abuses occurring on the planet, ranging from being sold into sexual slavery to being killed in mass executions. He didn’t know that being a refugee is a badge of resilience and honor, not danger.”
Mayell says he alerted security about the incident, and the security staff spoke with the fan privately. The fan apologized to Mayell, but was not removed from the game, according to the essay.
“My gameday experience was ruined,” Mayell wrote. “I tried to focus on the players, but I continued to take glances at the man who sat just a few yards away. I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder, wondering if he had inspired someone else. It was clear that I would not be bringing my family to a Vikings game. I am deeply troubled by what happened to me.”
Mayell writes that he was excited for the game and wanted to bring his family with him in the future, but that his experience ensured that he would not bring his family to future games.
Refugees have been a controversial topic recently, with some presidential candidates calling for limitations. President Barack Obama has said his administration plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the coming year.