BYU’s athletic department is under fire after Duke women’s volleyball player Rachel Richardson was heckled with racial slurs during a match in Provo over the weekend. Richardson and Duke have criticized the slow response from BYU to adequately handle the situation both during and after the game.
The incident first went public when Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, tweeted details of the abuse Richardson and her teammates heard during the game. Richardson put out her own statement on Sunday sharing her experience at the game, and calling for this to be used as a teaching moment throughout college athletics.
Richardson was called racial slurs including the “n-word” when she was serving during the second set from a fan in BYU’s student section. Richardson’s father told The News and Observer the comments came from multiple fans, and continued into the fourth set.
When BYU was made aware of the situation, they reportedly placed a police officer between the Duke bench and student section, but didn’t kick the fan or fans out of the arena.
“There was knowledge of the slurs, on behalf of the officials and the coaching staffs,” Richardson’s father told the News and Observer. “And nothing was done.”
A BYU spokesman said the school couldn’t pinpoint the heckler during the game. After Duke identified the perpetrator after the game, the person was banned by BYU from all athletic venues on campus. The person who received the ban was not a student.
Update, Sept. 9: BYU has investigated the incident and found “no evidence of racial heckling or racial slurs directed at Duke volleyball players.”
“This is an opportunity to dig deep into closed cultures which tolerate amoral racist acts, such as those exhibited Friday night, and change them for the better,” Richardson wrote. Here’s here full statement:
#morethanavolleyballplayer pic.twitter.com/JJsofA6VgI— rachel richards (@rachrich03) August 28, 2022
Richardson spoke about what she heard during the game in her statement:
“The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe. Both the officials and BYU coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game, but failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment. As a result, my teammates and I had to struggled just to get through the rest of the game, instead of just being able to focus on our playing so that we could compete at the highest level possible. They also failed to adequately address the situation immediately following the game when it was brought to their attention again. No athlete, regardless of their race should ever be subject to such hostile conditions.”
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed the situation at the next game, but has faced criticism for refusing to call the incident racist.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addresses fans in attendance before tonight's game. pic.twitter.com/UH0URY7Svx— BYU Women’s Volleyball (@BYUwvolleyball) August 28, 2022
Richardson was scheduled to meet with Holmoe and BYU volleyball coach Heather Olmstead over the weekend, but Olmstead reportedly didn’t show up to the meeting.
I just talked to Marvin Richardson, the father of Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson, who was called the N-word and threatened yesterday. Today, she was supposed to meet with the @BYU athletic director and vollyball head coach. But head coach Heather Olmstead didn’t show up https://t.co/7DJM62ugvR— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) August 27, 2022
Here’s the full statement from BYU. Duke has also issued a statement.
BYU put out a statement saying they found no evidence of racial slurs used against Duke volleyball players. Here’s a link to the full statement. It includes:
As part of our commitment to take any claims of racism seriously, BYU has completed its investigation into the allegation that racial heckling and slurs took place at the Duke vs. BYU women’s volleyball match on August 26. We reviewed all available video and audio recordings, including security footage and raw footage from all camera angles taken by BYUtv of the match, with broadcasting audio removed (to ensure that the noise from the stands could be heard more clearly). We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event: Duke athletic department personnel and student-athletes, BYU athletic department personnel and student-athletes, event security and management and fans who were in the arena that evening, including many of the fans in the on-court student section.
From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event. As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation.
As a result of our investigation, we have lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match. We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity. BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.
The school is saying it investigated itself and found nothing wrong. It did not specify if it talked to Richardson. Richardson’s complaint should count as evidence enough.
We’ll update this story as it develops.