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Coloradan Gazella Bensreiti Wants Change After Hijab Discrimination At Pepsi Center

DENVER (CBS4) - A Muslim-American woman who says she was asked to remove her hijab while waiting to enter the Pepsi Center is calling on management to make changes to policy and employee training. Gazella Bensreiti was at the arena for a Denver Nuggets game on Nov. 5. One of her three daughters was there with her class to perform the national anthem before tipoff.

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(credit: Gazella Bensreiti)

"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 my head," Bensreiti said.

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(credit: CBS)

Bensreiti was wearing a hijab, which she always wears in public. In a press conference with an attorney from the Council on American-Islamic Relations she said she had been to the Pepsi Center several times before and never had the same issue.

"I responded right away and told her that this was not just a head covering, that it was for religious purposes," Bensreiti said. "She responded that she didn't care."

According to Bensreiti, the employee, who refused to identify herself, declined the mother's offer to take the hijab off in a private room.

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Gazella Bensreiti calls for change at Pepsi Center after hijab discrimination. (credit: CBS)

"My daughter was crying, asking if I was not going to see her perform," she recalled.

On Wednesday, Bensreiti and Gadeir Abbas, an attorney for the CAIR Legal Defense Fund, presented a letter sent to Kroenke Sports & Entertainment management. In the letter, Abbas states "the incident raises serious concerns that the Denver Nuggets, the stadium it plays in, and the security services they rely upon are not fulfilling their legal obligations under Title II of the Civil Rights Act."

"Title II requires that all places of public accommodation accord 'all persons ... full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations' provide to any member of the public, regardless of their 'race, color, religion, or national origin,'" the letter read.

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(credit: Gazella Bensreiti)

"Those basketball games must be open to all Americans, regardless of faith, regardless of what head covering they're wearing," Abbas said to the media. "The Denver Nuggets fell short here."

Bensrieti has been in touch with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and hopes to see changes soon.

"I hope that no one is ever treated the way I was treated," Bensrieti said.

CBS4 reached out to Kroenke representatives for comment multiple times Wednesday, but did not get any response.

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