Mall of America exec had callous suggestion for handling homeless people during Super Bowl 52

A Mall of America exec told Metro Transit what it could do with the homeless people who arrived at the mall's station.

A Mall of America exec told Metro Transit what it could do with the homeless people who arrived at the mall's station. Courtney Perry, Star Tribune

It was hard to watch Super Bowl 53 without getting a little wistful for last year, when Minneapolis was the center of the action, and people flocked to our state to watch the Eagles flatten the Patriots.

The Twin Cities tried to put their best foot forward for the waves of out-of-town guests. Which makes this particular email exchange especially awkward.

The emails, sent 10 days before Super Bowl 52 and recently obtained by KSTP, were between a Mall of America executive -- Doug Reynolds, vice president of security operations -- and an unnamed Metro Transit official.

Metro Transit had decided to temporarily extend Blue Line light-rail service to MOA -- its largest station -- late into the night to accommodate the influx of visitors. But that also meant the Bloomington mall would be the last stop of the night, and plenty of the city’s homeless people -- hundreds of whom ride the light rail to stay warm during the winter -- would be dropped off on mall property after hours.

Reynolds’ reply was less than sympathetic.

He told the Metro Transit official that his “initial response” was to “load all of the people that were left at the MOA in to our vans and deliver them to the Metro Transit office building with a Happy Meal, a blanket, and some hand warmers.”

“Mall of America is my team’s house,” he continued. “If that sounds dispassionate then I recommend your team show how compassionate they are and set up tents, feeding stations, and the like around your offices and take in people by the train load.”

MOA issued a statement Wednesday saying leadership was “aware” of the emails, and that Reynolds’ comments were “disrespectful and do not reflect how Mall of America views the issue of homelessness nor how we work with our partners.” The “issue,” the statement says, was “addressed internally.” Richard Hoge, MOA’s executive vice president of operations, told KSTP that he’d apologized to Metro Transit officials.

Metro Transit spokesperson Howie Padilla says leadership understands “the emotions surrounding the email.”

“Homelessness is an emotional issue,” he said Wednesday.

During the days leading up to the Super Bowl, Minneapolis stepped up efforts to shuttle homeless populations toward shelters and churches located away from the festivities at U.S. Bank Stadium. Some homeless residents expressed frustration at the increased police presence in the skyways, and the stress put on public transportation; on Super Bowl Sunday, both the Blue and Green lines were off-limits to riders who didn’t have tickets to the game.

Metro Transit returned to its normal operations schedule after Super Bowl 52: letting riders stay on the Blue Line until it’s out of service and returns to the Franklin Avenue station, Padilla says. Where they go from there, he adds, is up to them.

Padilla says Metro Transit continues to enjoy “a good partnership” with Mall of America.