American gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee said she was pepper-sprayed in a racist attack last month while out with a group of friends in Los Angeles, according to ESPN and other news outlets.
In a cover story on Lee, the first Hmong American to represent the U.S. in the Olympics, she told PopSugar she was waiting for a ride when a car drove by with people shouting racial slurs.
According to Lee, who said she was with a group of friends who were all of Asian descent, one of the passengers sprayed her arm with pepper spray before the car drove away.
“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” Lee said. “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.”
Lee, 18, who won gold in the individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympics, is currently competing on the ABC show “Dancing with the Starsm” following in the footsteps of other Olympians, including Kristi Yamaguchi and Apolo Ohno.
Anti-Asian incidents have risen sharply in the U.S. since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that became the authority on gathering data on racially motivated attacks related to the pandemic, has received more than 9,000 incident reports from March 19, 2020, through June 2021. Many Asian American celebrities have participated in public service announcements and other efforts to confront the problem.