A Duke University women’s volleyball player was called racist and threatened during a game against Brigham Young University in Utah on Friday, resulting in a fan being banned from sporting events, the student, her family and the school said.
Rachel Richardson, a black starter on Duke’s team, was called the n-word “every time she served” and was threatened by “a white man who told her to see her go back to the team bus,” her godmother . Lesa Pamplin said on social media:.
A police officer had to be placed at the Duke team’s bank as a result of the alleged harassment, Pamplin said.
The game drew a crowd of more than 5,000 people at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah.
Gloria Richardson, Rachel’s mother, told NBC News that her daughter called her crying Friday night.
“To make our strong independent daughter call and cry…. it hurt. She didn’t feel safe,” she says.
She said her daughter, a sophomore from Ellicott City, Maryland, did not initially tell her parents or coach about the intervention. After the second game, the umpires had a police officer come down.
“She was incredibly scared,” her mother said. “It was just really scary for her. Here you have over 5,500 people at this match all in Blue. She just felt singled out.”
“Aside from the ‘N-word’…she got constant boos when she served. Her white teammates didn’t understand that. Her back was against the fans…and all she heard (sic) was her name and n- word She didn’t turn around,” Gloria continued.
Rachel, an outside hitter, was eventually met with the BYU athletic director who said the suspect had been identified and described as not a BYU student but someone else’s guest. She was also sure it was one person who had said the slur, according to Gloria.
BYU confirmed the incident on Saturday, saying a fan, who is not a BYU student, has been banned from all athletic venues.
“When a student athlete or fan comes to a BYU sporting event, we expect them to be treated with love and respect and to feel safe on our campus. It is for this reason that BYU banned a fan identified by Duke during last night’s volleyball game from all BYU athletic venues. Although this fan was in the student section of BYU, this person is not a BYU student,” the school said:.
The school apologized to Duke University and its student athletes who were involved in the game.
“To say that we are extremely disheartened by the actions of a small number of fans during last night’s volleyball game … is not strong enough,” the statement said. is absolutely unacceptable and BYU Athletics is taking a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior,” the statement said.
“We want BYU athletic events to provide a safe environment for everyone, and there is no place for this kind of behavior at our venues,” the statement concluded.
Richardson spoke about the incident on Sunday at Twitter, calling on the match officials for failing to stop the harassment. The post was shared by Duke volleyball’s social media page.
“My fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially harassed throughout the match. The slander and comments grew into threats that made us feel unsafe,” she wrote.
“Both BYU officials and coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game, but did not take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment,” she continued. “… No athlete, regardless of race, should ever be exposed to such hostile conditions.”
“It is neither my goal nor Duke Volleyball’s goal to invite BYU athletics, but to call them on,” Richardson wrote. “This isn’t the first time this has happened in college athletics and unfortunately it probably won’t be the last. But every time it happens, we as student athletes, coaches, fans and administrators have the opportunity to be those those who behave hatefully.”
After Friday’s incident, Duke’s Saturday game, which was scheduled to take place at the same BYU field house, was moved to a different location.
“After extremely unfortunate circumstances during Friday night’s game at BYU, we have been forced to move today’s game against Rider to a different location to provide both teams with the safest atmosphere for competition,” said Duke Vice President & Director of Athletics Nina King .
She added that she has been in contact with the student-athletes “who are deeply affected” and “will continue to support them in every way possible”.
The Rider University women’s volleyball team shared a message of support for Richardson ahead of their Saturday game by writing her jersey number on their wrists.
At the start of Saturday’s game, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed the fans in attendance and condemned the “outrageous and hurtful comments” made during the previous game.