MINNEAPOLIS — The NFL community is rallying behind the Minnesota Vikings starting running back after he posted screenshots of racist messages that were sent to him Thursday night.
Alexander Mattison shared the racist direct messages that were sent to him on Instagram after the Vikings faced off against the Eagles.
The screenshots included a volley of racist language, harmful tropes and encouraged Mattison to take his own life.
"I hope the 60+ people who decided to come at me with disgustingly disrespectful messages tonight in DM's (direct messages) and comments really reflect on wtf you say and how it could truly affect someone," said Mattison.
The Vikings released a statement of their own on Friday addressing the incident.
"We stand with Alexander and all players who, unfortunately, experience this type of behavior, and we ask our fans to continue to fight to eliminate racism."
Speaking at a virtual press conference Friday, Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell addressed the incident, saying racism has no place in our society.
"Regardless of how upset someone may be with fantasy football output or a player's performance, it's just unacceptable in any way shape, or form, really in our society, but especially in regards to professional athletes and our players," O'Connell said.
Former Vikings player, Greg Coleman, who broke a color barrier as the first African American punter in the NFL, told KARE 11 he was saddened by the racist comments, but said that it was also sadly nothing new.
"In Minnesota, playing for the Vikings, there would be folks who cheered you on Sunday, once you took that jersey off, you were just another... (n-word)," Coleman said. "Back in the 70's and 80's, we got letters. Today, they can hide behind social media. They are cowards, they are ugly bigoted cowards who hide behind social media to spew their venom."
Fortunately, Coleman said players, teams and community members have long had support structures in place to navigate hateful comments, and he said Mattison has been a leader when it comes to support for mental health and resiliency.
The NFL Players Association awarded Mattison with the Community MVP Award for the first week of the season, in recognition of a back-to-school event in which he helped outfit more than 250 kids with backpacks and many other essential items.
Before the Vikings home opener, Mattison's I am Gifted Foundation also hosted a local family devastated by suicide. The foundation emphasizes positive mental health practices in support of Mental Health Awareness & Suicide Prevention. According to the website, Mattison's inspiration for starting the foundation comes from his own battles with mental health and his desire to give back to the communities that gave so much to him.
"I know (Mattison) and I love him," Coleman said. "He'll be a kid that will use this fuel to fire like most of us had to do. Somewhere in his journey, he has faced the ugliness of racism, and his Mom and his aunt, his dad have given him the tools to overcome it."
Both the NFL and the NFL Players Association released statements decrying the racist behavior.
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