DENVER — The owners of Pepsi Center say security screening processes will be reviewed and staff will be educated after an American Muslim woman was reportedly told to remove her hijab or be refused entrance to the arena.
On Nov. 5, Gazella Bensreiti went to Pepsi Center to watch one of her three daughters perform the National Anthem.
According to the Colorado chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an employee at will call told Bensreiti to “take that thing off” — in reference to Bensreiti’s hijab — or be denied entry.
Bensreiti spoke at a press conference on Wednesday.
“When I entered will call, the security person that was working immediately waved at me and told me that I had to take that thing off of my head. I responded right away and told her that this was not just a head covering, that it was for religious purposes, to which she responded that she didn’t care,” Bensreiti said.
CAIR says Bensreiti asked to removed the hijab in private, in front of a woman.
“She was refused and subsequently subjected to public humiliation in front of staff, students and other parents, until her daughter became distraught, believing her mom would not be allowed in to see her perform,” CAIR said in a statement.
In a Facebook post explaining the ordeal, Bensreiti said there were five white men ahead of her wearing baseball caps.
Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, which owns Pepsi Center, issued the following statement about the incident:
“Pepsi Center prides itself on creating a safe and inclusive environment for all patrons regardless of race, gender, religion, national origin, disability and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, there was a misunderstanding on November 5 when a security agent didn’t recognize that Ms. Bensreiti was wearing a hijab. A supervisor quickly intervened, and Ms. Bensreiti entered.
We have reached out to Ms. Bensreiti and look forward to engaging in honest discourse that leads to greater awareness and an opportunity to further celebrate the diversity that makes Denver such a special place. While the matter is still under review, we are taking steps to modify our screening process and provide additional education for our staff.”
CAIR says it “has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president.”