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Wisc. fan removed from Northwestern game for Anti-Asian gestures

The incident, which went viral on social media, was condemned by both universities.
Wisconsin Badgers play Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Jan. 18, 2022 in Evanston, Ill.
Wisconsin Badgers play Northwestern Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Jan. 18, 2022 in Evanston, Ill.Quinn Harris / Getty Images

A University of Wisconsin fan was removed from a basketball game at Northwestern University this week after he made anti-Asian racist gestures at a crowd of Northwestern fans.

The incident, which went viral on TikTok and Twitter, showed the white fan in Wisconsin Badgers attire giving Northwestern fans the middle finger before making racist gestures. The man initially refused to leave with Northwestern security and was escorted by police out of the event.

Alyssa Eckels, a freshman at Northwestern, was in the third row of a student section when her friends started pointing to the man.

“Every time we would score or do something good, he would turn over to us and pull at his eyes. But like, not even just with his fingers, it was his middle fingers like he was trying to flick us off,” she told NBC Asian America. 

According to Eckels, the student section started chanting “Kick him out” once security arrived. She said the incident was offensive to her and the other students around her, many of whom are also of Asian descent.

“I’m half-Asian. A lot of people don’t know my ethnicity or a lot of people just assume I’m white,” she said. “I don’t feel like I face that many microaggressions or actual racism against me specifically. I just haven’t encountered it a lot, and so that was kind of my first time. It was directed at all of us.”

Northwestern, which has a freshman class that is nearly 25 percent Asian, called the incident “unacceptable and a violation of University values and our fan code of conduct.” 

The University of Wisconsin also condemned the fan’s “offensive anti-Asian gestures.”

Both universities said they had identified the man, who is not a current Wisconsin student or employee, and banned him from future athletic events. 

“We also want to acknowledge that hateful behavior like this still happens far too often, on and off campus — towards members of our Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American community as well as other marginalized communities,” Wisconsin said in a statement. “It inflicts pain and fear and causes students, staff and faculty to feel unwelcome and unsafe.” 

One in 5 Asian American and Pacific Islanders have said they’ve experienced a hate incident in the past year, according to data from the reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate.