They were messing with a Texan.
The man who kept his cool on a crowded British tram while three foul-mouthed youth yelled at him to "get back to Africa" is a U.S. Army veteran named Juan Jasso, who hails from Brownsville, Texas, The New York Times and British media reported.
While Jasso, 38, is indeed an immigrant who has called England home for 18 years, his ancestry is Mexican, not African. And he told the newspaper that he doesn't blame the outbreak of bigotry on the recent vote to leave the European Union.
In fact, Jasso said, he also would have voted to leave the EU.
"The people who attacked me probably had the same mentality before the Brexit vote," he said. "My impression is that they were uneducated and ignorant."
The explosion of anti-immigrant invective that Jasso was hit with Tuesday on a Manchester tram during the morning commute was caught on cellphone and it horrified Britain after it went viral.
Jasso, who lives in Todmorden, Yorkshire, told Britain's Channel 4News that the beer-swilling trio began giving him grief after he advised them to "watch their language."
"Obviously it was really early in the morning, there were children about and I could tell from other people's faces on the tram they didn't really appreciate the language which they were using," he said. "So I thought I would step up and say something, and I didn't really appreciate it either."
The three men, ages 16, 18 and 20, were later arrested and charged with affray, which is the English equivalent of threatening violence.
Jasso, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, enlisted in the Army at age 18 and was stationed in Germany and Britain.
An avid rugby player, he now teaches in the sports science department at the Manchester College vocational school. And he says Brexit or not, bashing immigrants is not right.
"I think the result maybe has pushed people to somehow justify that they think it's OK now to act out in this way, which obviously it's not," he told Channel 4News.
"And no matter what anybody says, (immigrants) have that right to come here and choose to live here and they should not be discriminated for that."
Britain saw a spike in anti-immgrant sentiment in the run-up and aftermath of the Brexit vote, with Poles and Muslims being the chief targets of bigots.