An elderly Asian American woman was brutally assaulted on a New York City street this week, another hate crime in an escalating series of them over the past year. Taylor Rapp saw video of that attack as it spread on social media, as he’s seen so many — too many — similar videos recently.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Rapp, the former University of Washington All-American.
The attacks have become personal for Rapp, now entering his third year with the Los Angeles Rams. He is the only current NFL player of Chinese heritage, and it is a distinction he wears proudly — and literally.
The tattoo on Rapp’s left arm was hand-designed by his Chinese American grandfather. It features the Chinese word for an ox — Rapp was born in 1997, the Year of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac — and serves as a symbol of Rapp’s efforts to raise awareness, and money, for the #StopAsianHate campaign.
Nationwide, nearly 3,800 hate incidents were reported against the Asian American Pacific Islander community, according to Stop AAPI Hate. Rapp has publicly condemned the “Chinese virus” rhetoric surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s been a lot of anti-Asian hate the past year, and we’ve really seen that come into the national spotlight these past few weeks,” Rapp said. “The Asian community means a lot to me and my story, growing up (playing football) without a lot of Asian American representation.”
Rapp’s parents met in China. His mother, Chiyan, is Chinese, born and raised in Shanghai. His father, Chris, is American, born in Oklahoma and raised in Canada. Taylor and his older brother, Austin, were raised in Bellingham.
Rapp’s maternal grandparents, both in their 90s, live in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. When he sees news reports of Asian hate crimes, he says he can’t help but fear for his grandparents’ safety. He says he’s asked them not to go out alone.
“The worst part,” he said, “is that the most vulnerable and most helpless are being targeted.”
On Thursday, Rapp launched a non-fungible token (NFT) digital memorabilia collection on the cryptocurrency auction site OpenSea. Through Sunday night, users can bid on his collection, which features six different designs, and 90 pieces in all, each featuring a Chinese ox theme.
Earlier this month, NFL stars Patrick Mahomes and Rob Gronkowski launched their own NFT collections, each raising millions of dollars.
The winning bidder of Rapp’s one-of-one special-edition collection will also receive a meet-and-greet with him, tickets to a Rams game and more.
Rapp said he plans to donate a “large chunk” of the money raised from the NFT to the Asian American Pacific Islander Community Fund at GoFundMe. That fundraiser has already reached more than $5 million in donations.
Growing up in Bellingham, Rapp said he often tried to hide his Chinese heritage. He had been taunted in middle school and wanted to blend in in the predominantly white community.
It wasn’t until he got to UW in 2016 that he began to realize the kind of influence he could have as one of the few Asian American players in college football. That influence has grown since he was drafted by the Rams in the second round of the NFL draft in 2019.
During the football season, he says he regularly receives messages from Asian American football players — or their parents — on Instagram. His goal, he said, is to respond to every one, and to provide a positive example for them.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have anyone I could look up to that looked like me,” he said. “Just me being able to be that person for kids to look up to now — that’s what drives me and motivates me.”