Brigham Young University (BYU) is currently investigating an incident at a volleyball game on Aug. 26 with Duke University on their campus in which Black Duke player Rachel Richardson and her family say that she and her fellow Black teammates had racial slurs hurled at them from the fan section. The event has garnered much attention and many questions remain as one fan has already been banned from attending BYU games.
The story first made waves on social media after Richardson’s godmother Lesa Pamplin, a Fort Worth, Texas-based attorney who is currently running for Tarrant County’s Circuit Court Judge’s Number 5 position, posted about it in a tweet that quickly went viral.
“My Goddaughter is the only Black starter for Duke’s volleyball team. While playing yesterday, she was called a n*igger every time she served. She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench,” Pamplin tweeted.
Richardson released a statement on Twitter confirming she and her Black teammates faced the racial attacks and highlighted that BYU’s athletic director, Tom Holmoe, is working to ensure his staff —whom Richardson said failed to take action during the game — is better equipped to handle such situations in the future.
“No athlete, regardless of their race, should ever be subject to hostile conditions. God has called each of us to be members of one body, while we may have our differences they should never divide us,” Richardson’s statement read.
The following match between Duke and BYU on Saturday, Aug. 27, was moved off the campus out of safety concerns. BYU released a statement on Aug. 28 condemning what took place.
The university also revealed that a fan identified by Duke to be yelling slurs was banned indefinitely from BYU sports events. It was later revealed that the fan was a student at Utah Valley University (UVU) sitting in the BYU fan section–which the school has eliminated for the rest of the tournament which concluded Saturday, Sept. 3.
In a BYU police report, Lt. George Besendorfer reported that the man who Duke identified does not appear to have been yelling the N-word nor any slurs in the surveillance footage they reviewed. The officer placed at the bench, Det. Sgt. Richard Laursen said he did not hear any racial slurs being made throughout the match and he did not see the UVU student who was banned use any negative language toward the Duke players. Laursen also said he believed the UVU student had Asperger’s Syndrome or autism.
Police spoke with the banned UVU student who said that he approached a Duke player who was a friend after the game and said that he only told players that they should not hit the net with the ball. Lt. Besendorfer noted that no fans have come forward to say they know who might have yelled the epithets and is encouraging people who were in the fan section to come forward by reaching out to the police dispatcher at 801-422-2222. Additionally, the school has asked for fans in attendance to provide any footage that may be helpful in narrowing down where the slurs may have come from.
“We have stated that if there is anyone who has photo or video evidence of a perpetrator of racial slurs from Friday night (Aug 26.), we would welcome that information,” Jon McBride, the associate athletic director at BYU, said. “BYU police and various BYU Athletics employees have been reviewing video from BYUtv and other cameras in the facility that the volleyball team has access to for film review. This has been ongoing since right after the match on Friday night,” he continued.
According to McBride, the investigation will end soon.
As addressed by Richardson in her statement, “This is not the first time this has happened in college athletics.” These events as described fall in line with other noted incidents of racism involving college games, such as the one involving the Howard University Women’s Lacrosse Team bearing the brunt of racist and misogynistic comments thrown at them by spectators before an away game at Presbyterian College earlier this year. McBride assured that BYU Athletics is taking the necessary steps to correct this sort of behavior going forward and foster safety and wellness for those attending their sports events.
“BYU Athletics has provided education on avoiding and preventing racism for its coaches, staff, and student-athletes. That will continue….We are confident that through BYU’s newly-formed Office of Belonging, more education on avoiding and preventing racism will be available for our entire student body,” he said.
Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman