When Vikings Fandom Becomes Poisonous

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Following the Eagles loss, Alexander Mattison shared some examples of when Vikings fandom takes a troubling turn.

The running back shared screenshots of direct messages featuring vile, horrendous language that won’t be repeated on PurplePTSD. Thankfully, there have been a pile of people around the 5th-year player who have been condemning the messages while offering their support for him.

Vikings Fandom & The Support for Alexander Mattison

The Vikings responded, explaining that they “are sickened by the hatred and racial slurs directed toward Alexander Mattison following last night’s game.” To conclude the statement, the Vikings shared this thought: “We stand with Alexander and all players who, unfortunately, experience this type of ignorant and prejudicial behavior, and we ask our fans to continue to fight to eliminate racism.”

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) during warmups against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Kevin O’Connell is supporting his player: “I know this is not an isolated incident from last night for Alex and other professional athletes. Racism has no place[,] regardless of how upset someone may be with fantasy football output or a player’s performance.”

The league made a similar effort to support Minnesota’s RB1. The NFL’s Twitter account explained that they “strongly condemn” the messages sent to Mattison, concluding by seeking to “remind fans to remember the humanity of all players and celebrate their contributions to the game we all love.”

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) hands the football off to running back Alexander Mattison (2) during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Teammates also expressed their support, such as K.J. Osborn, Josh Metellus, and C.J. Ham (as Mattison explains).

Truth be told, I don’t care very much when fans participate in the benign insults. When the Packers visit in Week 17, hearing some boos for Jaire Alexander won’t raise too many eyebrows. In fact, Mattison explained that he doesn’t worry about the normal insults: “For me, 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. It’s when you cross the line, make it personal. And you make it something that not only 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.”

Indeed, allowing that Vikings fandom to get to a point where horribly racist messages and calls for a player to commit suicide are being sent is a troubling, deeply discouraging place to be.

Before the season began, I put together a humble piece on PurplePTSD titled “Purple PSA: 3 Rules for Being a Top-Tier Fan at U.S. Bank Stadium.” The final point was to ensure fandom doesn’t get taken too far: “Football matters. Quite a bit, in fact. Does that mean fans can take leave of their senses as they hurl any kind of foul insult at coach, player, and/or game official? By no means. Don’t be that fan. Folks, we’ve all heard the horror stories. Do not be that person.”

Alexander Mattison / Kirk Cousins
Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (25) celebrates his touchdown with center Garrett Bradbury (L) and quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) against the Detroit Lions during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

In person, fans need to ensure they aren’t crossing the line. Online, Vikings fans should similarly be ensuring they aren’t crossing that line. Don’t ever forget that Mattison is a person who happens to play football; wearing an NFL jersey by no means allows for fans to participate in the kind of vitriol that Mattison experienced.

The Vikings’ next game is taking place on Sunday, September 24th when the Los Angeles Chargers visit U.S. Bank Stadium.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.

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