Lifestyle & Human Interest

Fan with Down Syndrome Bullied for Dancing at Soccer Game, Gets Sweet Message from Players


As parents, sometimes the greatest moments of joy are watching your children be fully and unapologetically happy. Whether your child’s happiness manifests itself through dancing, singing or belly laughs, it’s hard to keep a big grin from your face.

Neil Markham of Banbury, Oxfordshire, England, witnessed one of these moments with his 16-year-old daughter, Ella.

He had taken her to see the Trottenham Hotspur Football Club for the first game in their new stadium and her excitement couldn’t be contained.

The Spurs lost, but Ella’s spirits weren’t dampened.

They walked past a live band that created the perfect atmosphere for Ella to display how happy the day had made her, despite the loss. So, she danced.

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Neil took a video of the moment and proudly posted it to his Twitter.

His daughter’s moment of pure joy brought a smile to his face, so he thought it would bring a smile to others’ faces as well. But soon his tweet caught the attention of “trolls” who began to criticize both Ella and Neil, focusing on the fact that Ella has Down syndrome.

As the mean comments continued to come in, Neil’s heart broke. He said in an interview with “This Morning” that he showed some of the comments to his wife, but not all of them. “She didn’t need to see all of them,” he said.

As he laid in bed that night, he thought about how he was going to handle the situation.

“The only way I could do is to confront them,” he said.

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So he began retweeting the hurtful comments in order to bring them to light, but he never returned the attacks. He hoped that by doing so, commenters would see how hurtful their comments truly were.

“This is the sort of ignorance that I have to put up with from time to time,” he wrote. “My daughter sees the best in everyone even people like this. I’m very proud of her.”

As he began to retweet the mean words people were saying, they started to be deleted by those who originally tweeted them. Some even claimed their accounts had been hacked.

But as these comments were being brought to light, others reached out to Neil to show their support. “For the 70-ish negative comments I’ve had over 50,000 positive ones,” he told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal.

Spurs legend Micky Hazard even reached out to share words of encouragement.

“Hey Neil your daughter is a beautiful young Lady and that is such a beautiful photo of you both,” he wrote. “Sometimes people are cruel because they don’t see the beauty but the vast majority do.”

Another Spurs great, Graham Rogers, invited Ella to a gala dinner later in May. “I can’t wait to spend a special evening with her,” he wrote.

A spokesperson for the Spurs also reached out to Ella and her family to make sure she knows how valued she is by the team.

“We are extremely disappointed to see the reaction by a small minority of people to a social media post by Ella’s father of his daughter at our most recent home game,” the spokesperson said, according to the Daily Mail.

“We will do all we can to identify those responsible for these posts and take the appropriate action. We are in contact with Ella’s family to ensure she realises just how grateful we are for her support and that has been reflected even wider by the overwhelmingly positive support to the video from true football supporters.”

Ultimately, Neil has made it clear that he just wants people to treat his daughter as “a normal person who would smile at you and doesn’t deserve to have have fun poked at her.”

Neil also told Liftable that he hopes people will think about how their mean comments make people feel. He also hopes their story will encourage others to stand up for those who are being bullied.

“We shouldn’t just stand back,” he said.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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