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Alexander Mattison Appreciates Support, Hopes to Help Others Confronted by Hate

EAGAN, Minn. – When Alexander Mattison heard about a young fan being bullied, he didn't hesitate to reach out and offer encouragement.

Little did he know, that support would be reciprocated less than a week later.

A friend of Mattison's father had traveled to Minnesota for the Vikings home opener Sept. 10 and brought his 11-year-old son, who has been taunted in California for supporting the Vikings.

"I was able to speak some positive light into him," Mattison told media members Monday. "And then he reached out to me to return the favor this time."

Just four days after meeting the young man, Mattison was sharing screenshots of personal Instagram messages he'd received following Minnesota's loss at Philadelphia. The words oozed with hatred, racial slurs and encouragement of suicide.

The Vikings and NFL alike posted statements condemning such bigotry and prejudice, and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell also disparaged the comments during a virtual press conference Friday.

Mattison said he's received an outpouring of encouragement from fans and even rivals, as seen in this week's Monday Morning Mailbag.

"I really do appreciate it. On behalf of me and my family, the support's been just tremendous," he said. "It's something that no one deserves to go through, and I just want to make sure I bring that to light for anyone who might be sitting back and dealing with stuff.

"I'm advocating for those people because I know it goes on a lot more – this isn't the first instance, and this probably won't be the last, sadly," Mattison continued. "[I just wanted to let people] know that this goes on, this is something we have to deal with and something that needs to stop and something that people shouldn't be dealing with."

Since being drafted by the Vikings in 2019, Mattison has committed himself to bettering the Twin Cities community, investing in its youth, and developing his public voice against social injustices and in raising mental health awareness. So when he opened the hate-filled messages, not unlike ones he's received in the past, he felt strongly about speaking out.

Mattison said he also talked with teammate, friend and Vikings team captain C.J. Ham prior to publicly sharing the screenshots.

"It was a moment sitting on that plane, I was debriefing, talking with my guy C.J. Ham, and we were just talking about the game, of course, because it's a frustrating loss that you're dealing with," he recalled. "And then dealing with stuff like that, at a moment where you're down – kick me when I'm down – it was one of those situations where I realized I've been able to find my voice over the past few years with a lot of different issues, a lot of different things, [having gone] through my own mental health journey.

"There are a lot of people out there who are either dealing with worse or dealing with something similar that may not have the voice, may not have found their voice yet. So to be able to do that was really the main reason – [and] to make sure everyone understands," he added.

Vikings safeties Josh Metellus and Camryn Bynum are thankful Mattison opted to bring the abhorrent messages to light, a decision that's since created a league-wide conversation.

"I'm glad he had the courage to do that and really to put the spotlight on what happens behind the scenes for players," Bynum said. "You make a good play, and everyone is going to be in your DMs, talking good and saying you're the best thing ever. And you make one bad play, they're going to rip you apart. It was good he was able to see that and really let the world see that it happens to all of us."

The reason it should be talked about, noted Metellus, is simple: It's just not OK.

"It's not OK, anywhere. I don't see why anybody would condone that type of behavior," Metellus said. "We need to do our best to try to keep that from happening.

"I know it's hard because social media, you can do [those things anonymously]," he added. "But I will say as much as we can keep spreading the word and just keep spreading positivity in the world, I think we can try to limit the amount of times stuff like that happens."

Metellus shared with reporters Monday that he'd been sent messages of a similar nature and has tried to be there for Mattison as best as possible.

"This world can do a lot for you, and it can do a lot against you," Metellus said. "That's why you need that core group of people always keeping you stable and ready to move forward."

Metellus, Mattison and players throughout the NFL have experienced angry reactions by some fans – especially those who may play fantasy football or in other ways put money on the game's outcome or individual player performances.

Mattison understands that, to a degree, flak from fans will be part of the job and public-facing personas.

But hurling racial slurs or encouraging someone to commit suicide? There is simply no place for such sentiments.

"I don't care if you tell me I suck, I don't care if you tell me I shouldn't be playing – I really could care less about those comments," he said. "It's when you cross the line and make it personal and make it not only something I have to deal with but something that my family has to deal with, that's when we get into a different realm of things.

"We have families. We have people that love us," Mattison said. "This isn't fantasy. This is real life. I just wanted to make sure I emphasized that."

As part of his initial Instagram Story post, Mattison had written, "Under my helmet, I am a human … a father … a son."

He reiterated that to media members Monday, as he's watched his wife, brother and other family members attempt to defend him against Internet trolls and bullies.

"It's taken a toll. They don't want to see that. They don't want to go back and forth with these people. But it's hard not to take things personally," Mattison said. "You don't want that for your family. It's something that … I understand it comes with [the territory], but at the same time, when can we fix that? What can we do to make that happen less?"

Mattison hopes to raise his 1-year-old daughter, Alayah, in a world where love and kindness overcome racism and cruelty. He also hopes speaking out against this specific instance can help young people who may be going through difficult times.

"There's a lot of people dealing with a lot of different things, and if you can see you're not alone [and] see how someone else can handle that adversity, it helps out," he said. "It's always bigger than a game."