MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - It hasn’t been the start that Alexander Mattison or any of the Minnesota Vikings had in mind, as they stare 0-2 in the face getting ready to host the L.A. Chargers on Sunday.
After last Thursday’s loss at the Philadelphia Eagles, Mattison opened his phone was exposed to how awful the social media world can be. He had more than 60 messages directed at him with racial slurs, and at least one recommending he take his own life. Mattison had just eight carries for 28 yards in the loss.
Mattison spoke publicly from the Vikings’ locker room at TCO Performance Center on Monday for the first time since receiving those messages. It’s nothing new for Black athletes, but they all weigh on the recipient mentally. Mattison took screenshots of some of the messages and posted them to his Instagram story for an inside look at the real world.
"None of this was for attention, none of this was for pity. This was to bring to light something that happens way too much. You shouldn’t be walking around doing stuff like this, you shouldn’t be able to interact with people without going through some type of repercussions making outlandish statements like that," Mattison said.
Mattison went public with what he was receiving after a talk with fullback C.J. Ham on the plane ride home. Many can take criticism and laugh it off, but these messages got personal and went too far. Thursday night started with at least one fan in the stands yelling at him that he hopes he tears his ACL.
"It was one of those situations where I realized I had been able to find my voice over the years with a lot of different issues going through my own mental health journey. Understanding that there are a lot of people out there that are dealing with something similar that may not have found their voice yet," Mattison said. "To be able to do that was really the main reason. There’s a lot of fantasy football people out there that think it’s all fun and games, we have families, we have people that love us, we have people that we’re doing this for. This is our life, so just wanted to make sure I emphasized that."
The support for Mattison in the aftermath of it all has come in waves. The Vikings released a statement Friday that racist comments and behavior will not be tolerated. The NFL did the same, and expressed their full support for Mattison.
Many lockers at TCO on Monday had "I Am Gifted" hats, the primary foundation Mattison works with. Teammates Josh Metellus and Cam Bynum spoke about supporting him on Monday.
"Just being there, being a good teammate for him. Sometimes a guy in that situation just wants to vent and I was just being there for him, letting him know I’m here. This world can do a lot for you and it can do a lot against you. That’s why you need those core group of people that always keep you stable and ready to move on and move forward," Metellus said. "Anybody out there going through a situation like that needs somebody to lean on. Our job as his teammates is to be those people to lean on… That’s not OK, it’s not OK anywhere I don’t see why anybody should condone that type of behavior. We need to do our best to keep that from happening."
"I’m glad, the fact that he had the courage to do that and really put the spotlight on what happened. It’s behind the scenes for players, one thing is you make a good play and everybody is going to be in your DMs talking good and saying you’re the best thing ever. You make one bad play and they’re going to rip you apart, so it’s good that he’s able to let the world see that it happens to all of us," Bynum said. "I’m glad he had the courage to speak out for people."
The Vikings brought back Mattison on a two-year deal and in two games as the featured back, he has 19 carries for 62 yards, and has a receiving touchdown. It’s one thing to be an upset fantasy football owner, but these messages went too far.
"People don’t understand how much it affects your family. I have my wife, my brother and people trying to defend me publicly. It’s taken a toll where they don’t want to see that, but it’s hard not to take certain things personal. You don’t want that for your family," Mattison said. "I don’t care if you tell me I suck, I really could care less. It’s when you cross the line and make it personal, something my family has to deal with, that’s when we get into a different realm of things and where there’s a line that needs to be drawn."