The man racially abused on a tram this week is well known in local rugby league circles.
Juan Jasso was targeted by three youths as shocked commuters looked on during the incident in Manchester city centre on Tuesday morning.
Two teenagers, aged 16 and 18, have been bailed by police, and a 20-year-old man who was also held remains in custody for questioning after the incident was caught on camera.
Mr Jasso, a US Army veteran who once coached London Broncos and has ties with several local RL coaches and fitness conditioners, and is a sport lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, has spoken of how he decided to confront the rowdy passengers for using bad language.
He said Brexit “maybe has pushed people to somehow justify that they think it’s okay now to act out in this way”.
Footage taken by a fellow commuter shows one youth telling Mr Jasso: “Don’t chat shit when you’re not even from England, you little f****** immigrant. Get off the f****** tram now. Get back to Africa.”
One of the youths, who all appear to be holding bottles of beer, then approaches and flicks alcohol from his bottle at Mr Jasso.
As the youths get off, Mr Jasso says: “Seven years in the military,” as other commuters tell the three: “You are an absolute disgrace. A disgrace to England.”
Mr Jasso, said: “It was a bit of a surreal moment because initially it was just me asking those individuals just to watch their language.
“Obviously it was really early in the morning, there were children about and I could tell from other people’s faces on the tram they didn’t really appreciate the language which they were using. So I thought I would step up and say something.”
Mr Jasso said he did not feel threatened by the youths but said it was up to individuals to decide what they would do in a similar situation.
He said: “Obviously you don’t know what can happen from a situation whenever you challenge anyone, because you don’t know who they are, their background or anything, and how they are going to react.”
Asked if the thought the political atmosphere surrounding Brexit had contributed to the situation, Mr Jasso said: “I think there was an undertone there before this Brexit and the voting within the referendum, but I think the result maybe has pushed people to somehow justify that they think it’s okay now to act out in this way, which obviously it’s not.
“It’s not acceptable in any terms, in any way, shape or form, because obviously people feel threatened by it and, you know, people are coming here to contribute. And no matter what anybody says they have that right to come here and choose to live here and they should not be discriminated for that.”
Mr Jasso said it was only the second incident of its type he had experienced in his 18 years in the UK.
He said: “It hasn’t affected me in any way, shape or form because I have a little girl here now and I consider this my home, and I have got many, many friends here, friends who I consider my family.”
A spokesman for GMP said: “We will continue to monitor this situation and would strongly encourage anyone who thinks they may have experienced or witnessed hate crime to report it by calling the police on 101, contacting Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111, or via www.report-it.org.uk”