A Minnesota attorney attending his first NFL game on Sunday said he was targeted by another fan who demanded to know if he was a refugee, and says when he told Vikings stadium security about the confrontation, the staff merely spoke with the man instead of removing him.
Deepinder Mayell, the son of Indian immigrants, is director of the Advocates for Human Rights' Refugee and Immigrant Program and moved to Minnesota four years ago from New York, where he was born and raised. Writing in the Star Tribune, Mayell described the confrontation this way:
Shortly after he was seated, a man pushed "aside other people and point[ed] his finger in my face, demanding to know if I was a refugee. ... Somewhere in his mind, all he saw was a terrorist, based on nothing more than the color of my skin. He was white, and I wasn't. He didn't see anything else."
And in that instant, what Mayell didn't see or hear also disturbed him.
"What scared me the most was the silence surrounding me. As I looked around, I didn't know who was an ally or an enemy. In those hushed whispers, I felt like I was alone, unsafe and surrounded. It was the type of silence that emboldens a man to play inquisitor."
After the man left, Mayell and a friend found a security guard and then spoke to the fan on the concourse. Though Mayell received an apology -- "uttered in an adolescent way that demonstrated that he felt entitled to reconciliation as much as he felt entitled to hurl hatred" -- the attorney wanted the fan tossed from the stadium "because he made me feel unsafe."
But the staff let the fan stay after speaking with him.
"Apparently, the Vikings do not think that hate speech and racism are removable offenses," Mayell wrote.
The Vikings said in a statement that they first learned of the incident from the op-ed, that they reached out to Mayell and their security staff is investigating.
The Vikings say they also plan to have "further conversations" with security for the University of Minnesota, the team's temporary home amid work on a new stadium.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.