Offensive comments at UNO soccer game spark controversy

Photo courtesy of UNO Communications

Will Patterson
Opinion Editor

During the Aug. 11 men’s soccer game versus Creighton, a particular University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) sports fan shouted comments about deportation and anti-immigrant sentiment at some players. 

Former UNO soccer player and UNO alumnus Lalo Gamboa tweeted, “I’m disgusted that one of our own student section members had to resort to deportation comments towards opposing players. We all know that many of our players and Creighton players are here to study and these types of comments have no place here. Bad day to be a Mav.” 

The tweet has racked up nearly 200 likes. Bill Pickett, director of UNO Student Affairs, replied to Gamboa’s tweet, “I am also disgusted as well and want you to know this type of behavior is not the overall representation of the student section. This situation will be addressed with the student.” 

Student Body President Renata Chavez said via text message, “I didn’t approach the man who said it because so many UNO students were already confronting him. It was heartbreaking to hear about the comment, but I was proud of the students who stood up to him without hesitation.” 

The offender, Andy McAvin, said via Facebook messaging, “I would like to say that I am truly sorry for what happened. I have had issues with a bad temper in the past, and allowed my emotions to cloud my judgement and said something I don’t mean.” 

McAvin went on to say he was seeking professional help for temper problems, and that he will not be attending any games “until such time as both myself and my therapist deem me in a better state of mind.” 

The outburst comes just weeks after recent ICE operations have begun in Nebraska—specifically in the small town of O’Neill. According to the reporting by the Omaha World-Herald, over 100 people were “administratively arrested” in O’Neill.  

Racially and culturally motivated discrimination has been manifesting in Omaha. Just two weeks ago, the Gateway reported on locally posted fliers claiming it was Omaha citizens’ “civic duty” to report suspected undocumented immigrants to ICE. An Omaha resident reported finding the fliers posted on his home during the night. 

These incidents of casual racism are at the heart of discrimination. Threatening immigrants—of any legal status—with deportations creates a divide. It’s drawing a line in the sand—us and them. Snuffing out this prejudice at the start is the best way to preserve UNO’s inviting atmosphere. 

According to Chavez, students were fast to act against the man spouting hateful comments. UNO students already are on the right page with fighting to keep their student section discrimination free, but this matter extends past the soccer field. In a time where casual discrimination may bubble up, it’s extra important for students to remain vigilant against friends, family and classmates making such comments.