A woman watching the Honduras-Israel soccer match at BBVA Compass Stadium June 1 says a security guard tried to confiscate her Palestinian flag because it was a "racial slur."
Buthayna Hammad says she was waving the flag about fifteen minutes into the match when four stadium security officers and four police officers approached. They asked her to step away from her seat for a discussion. That's when, she says, security manager Nathan Buchanan told her the flag "infers a racial slur." (We don't know what's more offensive -- the premise that the flag is somehow racist, or that he allegedly said "infers" when he should have said "implies.")
"My boyfriend came with me. He is Honduran," Hammad told Hair Balls via Facebook. "He was outraged and couldn't stop yelling. I was a little more calm about it because I have faced racism [quite] a bit...." (Hammad, a native Houstonian, says her parents are from
Jordan Jerusalem and Gaza).
BBVA Compass Stadium spokeswoman Gina Rotola told us via email that "the decision to not allow the Palestinian flag to be displayed during the game was based on the sole intention of maintaining the safety of those in attendance. The flag bearer was instigating the crowd, and we felt it was important to diffuse a potentially volatile situation as emotions began to escalate. We instructed the patron that she could retain her flag but should refrain from waving it in front of fans from the other teams."
Rotola declined to explain how Hammad was "instigating" anything, but she told us that "A national flag from any country cannot be a racial slur, so if any statement of that nature were used, it would have been made incorrectly by an individual trying to deescalate a situation. Again, our goal is to host a fun, safe environment for all fans. Taunting, heckling, or creating a disturbance does not have a place in the stadium at any time."
Hammad, of course, has a different take: "Well, in this crowd, like many others, there are a lot of 'instigating' remarks or actions. Example, the crowds were yelling things like 'faggot,' 'mother-fucker' etc. I don't really speak Spanish, so I asked my [boyfriend] for a translation. I just shouted 'Honduras' or 'vamos Honduras' and held my flag."
Hammad told us that Buchanan said he'd make a "compromise," telling her that she could return to her seat and keep her flag, as long as she didn't wave it. She says he gave her his business card and said to contact him immediately if anyone gave her a problem.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
So why wave the flag in the first place?
Hammad tells us "While I want to avoid the politics of the situation, it is difficult to do, but I have cousins who have immigrated to Honduras from Palestine and they were very welcomed there, so there is a love for Honduras in that sense. My intention was to represent myself and Honduras."
She adds, "It happens. It is an international sport, and people fly their nation's flag to represent their support for the team they are cheering on."
Hammad thinks someone may have complained to security, so Buchanan may have felt he was put in an uncomfortable situation. (We tried speaking with him directly, but no such luck). Still, this was not the way to handle it. But at least we now know one thing, based on Hammad's story: Shouting "faggot" and "motherfucker" at BBVA Compass Stadium may not earn you a visit from security, but waving a flag someone doesn't like might.