Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo: Time to address rise in hate crimes

Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo said in a Wednesday post on Instagram that "now is the time to address the rise in hate crimes against all races over the last few years" in response to Tuesday's killings of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent, at three Atlanta-area massage parlors by a white gunman.

"I am deeply saddened by the events that took place in Atlanta yesterday and although there is no definitive answer yet on what this investigation will bring, I feel now is the time to address the rise in hate crimes against ALL races over the last few years," wrote Koo, who was born in South Korea.

"As an Asian American, I have heard the jokes and name calling. I often dealt with it by ignoring what was said and minding my own business. I don't have all the answers, but I realize now more than ever that this is an issue that needs to be addressed and that ignoring it won't help us do that. I know this one post won't solve the problem, but I hope to raise awareness on hate crimes against all."

Tuesday's attack sent terror through the Asian American community that's increasingly been targeted during the coronavirus pandemic and was condemned by Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Bills owner Kim Pegula, who was born in South Korea.

"What happened last night in our hometown of Atlanta leaves me heartbroken for all the victims and their families," Blank said in a statement. "The rise in violence and hate, specifically towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, is inconceivable, unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. I, my family and our family of businesses stand against all forms of hate, racism and violence and will continue to work toward a just and united community that rejects the ideologies creating such divisiveness."

Said Pegula: "We are deeply saddened by the shooting of multiple Asian Americans last night in Atlanta, and the recent acts of violence and hate nationwide towards the Asian community. Devastating tragedies like this are far too common in our society today. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families and loved ones.

"Today and always, we stand beside the AAPI community and condemn all acts of violence motivated by hate based on ethnicity and/or race. Our ongoing hope is that we all come together as a nation to foster a community that is focused on love and equality."

Pegula's statement also included a link directing to "more information on how we call all support the Asian community."

Other NFL franchises released statements condemning hate crimes and urging unity, such as the Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks.

Robert Aaron Long, 21, was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault on Wednesday and investigators said "they had not ruled out bias as a motivating factor even as the suspect denied such racial animus once in custody," per The New York Times.

Long previously told police the attack was not racially motivated, claiming to have a "sex addiction" and apparently he lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.

The shootings appear to be at the "intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia," Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen said, the first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia House and a frequent advocate for women and communities of color.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that regardless of the shooter's motivation, "it is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.