Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee says she and a group of fellow Asian American friends were subjected to racist comments and a pepper spray assault.
Lee, the St. Paul native who became the first Asian American woman to win gold in the all-around gymnastics competition, told PopSugar that she and her friends were waiting for an Uber when a vehicle drove by and people in it yelled racist slurs and told them to "go back where they come from."
Lee confirmed to CNN that the incident happened in October, though it's unclear where it occurred. Lee is currently in Los Angeles where she has reached the semifinals as a celebrity contestant on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars."
“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” Lee said in an extensive interview about her life with Pop Sugar. “I didn’t do anything to them, and having the reputation, it’s so hard because I didn’t want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen.”
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been subjected to increased racism since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, largely due to the virus being first detected in China.
In Lee's hometown of St. Paul there have been numerous racist incidents aimed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including in March 2021 when KARE 11 reporter Gia Vang announced that her father was a victim in St. Paul.
Vang shared her father's account of a driver who "was yelling at every Asian parent at the bus stop, including (my father), to get out of America, or they’ll be killed":
The nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate recorded more than 9,000 incident reports of hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from March 19, 2020 to June 30, 2021.