College volleyball’s opening weekend ended with a fan being banned from Brigham Young University’s athletic facilities and statements of regret from two universities and the governor of Utah after a black player on the Duke volleyball team made racist comments during a game in Washington DC. Provo, Utah.
The Duke volleyball team—including starter Rachel Richardson, a sophomore from Ellicott City, Maryland—had traveled to Utah to compete in a multi-day tournament at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse.
There, during a Friday game against BYU, Richardson was called the slur “every time she served,” said Lesa Pamplin, a Texas attorney and Richardson’s godmother, who attended the game and described the events on Twitter.
My goddaughter is the only black starter for the Dukes volleyball team. While playing yesterday, she was called a Negro every time she served. She was threatened by a white man who told her to see her go back to the team bus. A police officer had to be put at their bank. pic.twitter.com/rmGpXTYfua
— Lesa Pamplin for County Criminal Court #5 (@LesaPamplin) August 27, 2022
“She was threatened by a white man who told her to see her go back to the team bus,” Pamplin said.
After Duke’s players complained, a police officer was placed near the Duke bank for the rest of the game, according to Richardson’s father, Marvin Richardson. In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Richardson expressed disappointment that BYU officials hadn’t done more.
“Why wasn’t the fan removed? Then why was nothing done after the official report was made and the coaching staff was informed?” he said.
“Every American should be outraged that a young lady was subjected to hateful, degrading language, and we should be even more outraged that it took a tweet from me in Tarrant County, Texas, to expose this incident,” wrote Pamplin, who is a candidate in a judicial election in Fort Worth, in a statement released Saturday.
In a couple of statements, BYU Athletics apologized for the incident and said the fan had been banned from all athletic venues on campus.
“We do not tolerate this kind of behavior. In particular, the use of racist comments at any of our athletic events is absolutely unacceptable and BYU Athletics has a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior,” the school said:.
The offending fan was not a student, school officials said, although the person was in a student ward. About 5,500 people attended.
“When last night’s behavior was initially reported by Duke, no person had been notified and despite the best efforts of BYU security and event management, they were unable to identify an perpetrator of the racist comments. An individual was identified by Duke who they believed was making the insults and engaging in problematic behavior,” the school said in a second statement.
On Saturday, Duke announced that the next game was being moved to a different location outside the BYU campus “to provide both teams with the safest atmosphere for competition.”
Players “should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment that promotes equality and fair play,” Duke athletics director Nina King said in a statement. “We appreciate the support of BYU’s athletic administration as we navigate this troubling situation.”
Late Saturday, the Republican governor of Utah called the incident “terrible news.”
“I am disgusted that this behavior is happening and I am deeply saddened when others do not stand up to stop it,” Gov. Spencer Cox wrote on Twitter. “As a society, we need to do more to create an atmosphere where racist bastards like this are never comfortable attacking others.”
Ahead of BYU’s game on Saturday, Tom Holmoe, BYU’s athletic director, said, spoke to the crowd and urged fans to support their team without “[crossing] the rule” in malicious language.
“As children of God, we are responsible. Our mission is to love each other and treat everyone with respect, and that hasn’t happened. We fell very short,” Holmoe said.