ESPN takes on BYU-Duke volleyball incident; Tom Holmoe speaks on CNN

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BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe appeared on CNN Monday to explain his department’s ongoing investigation into a racist incident during Friday’s BYU-Duke volleyball game.

Holmoe told CNN about his Saturday meeting with Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson, who was the target of verbal attacks. He said they had a “personal conversation” and that he promised to stand with her in the fight against racism.

“We are in the same battle. What she’s asking for now in her very nice pronunciation where she calls for an end to racism, we are on her side. We are in that battle with her,” he said.

One BYU fan has already been banned, and the school continues to look for more information about others who may have been involved, Holmoe said.

“If anyone has videos or photos, we want to be able to find these people, whoever they are,” he said, noting that if BYU students were involved, they could face eviction.

Holmoe said BYU sent four ushers and a police officer into the crowd during Friday’s game after hearing reports of racist comments but could not identify the perpetrators.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the past three days watching videos from the BYU broadcast,” he said.

The use of racist comments by a fan during Friday’s BYU-Duke volleyball game also featured on ESPN’s “First Take” on Monday, and the panelists had harsh words for the BYU community.

Stephen A. Smith, Michael Irvin and Marcus Spears said the statements made by Holmoe and others about the incident were strong, but they still wonder why BYU students, coaches and players were not responding to the racist comments at this time.

“This was a gym, so everyone heard this kid. … No one comes out clean,” Irvin said.

Smith said that while he feels terrible for Richardson, he is grateful that moments like these can provoke reflection.

“Who’s thinking about going to BYU now? I think this will make them change their mind. If you are BYU, you are now in the eye of the storm. What does your student body look like? What does your faculty look like? What does your administration look like? I don’t know the answer, but there are a lot of people who think they do now,” Smith said.

The “First Take” and CNN segments come after a chaotic weekend for BYU’s athletic program, which has worked to make up for Richardson, educate students and hold fans accountable.

On Saturday, BYU Athletics announced it had banned a fan “identified by Duke”, noting that he was not a student, even though he had been in the student section.

In a statement, school principals said the athletics department “spent hours” watching videos of the event and speaking with security teams.

“We spent hours… (trying) to figure out exactly what happened and how it could have happened. This behavior cannot be tolerated,” the statement said.

The statement continued: “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 racist comments. It wasn’t until after the match that Duke identified a person who they said spoke the slur and exhibited problematic behavior. That is the person who has been banned.”

Holmoe then addressed the audience at Saturday’s BYU volleyball game, calling on the BYU community to do better in the future.

“As children of God, we are responsible, our mission is to love each other and treat everyone with respect, and that didn’t happen (Friday). We were very short. We didn’t try our best,” he said.

During the ESPN segment, Smith and others questioned why BYU students close to the unruly fan weren’t “doing better” right now, given that by 2022 everyone should know that yelling racist comments is unacceptable. According to Spears, coaches and administrators should have intervened sooner.

“Reaction time is what I have a problem with. Why don’t we fix these things and correct them in real time. Why do we come out and make statements afterwards?” he said.

You can’t say you have “zero tolerance” for racism if you’re slow to respond, Irvin added.

Spears, whose own daughter is a highly recruited volleyball player, said fans who are in the crowd near a bad actor should be prepared to do the right thing.

“We have to… be good enough and strong enough… to remove such people,” he said.

On CNN, Holmoe said Friday’s incident is not a reflection of BYU culture and that he and other campus leaders find racism “disgusting.”

“The fact that it happened here in our gym is very disturbing to us, but we will continue to do everything we can” to deal with Friday’s situation, he said.


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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