BYU bans fan, apologizes after racist incident at Duke volleyball game – Raleigh News & Observer

Duke sophomore volleyball setter Rachel Richardson strikes the ball during a match against Davidson at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Aug. 20, 2022.

Duke senior volleyball player Rachel Richardson hits the ball during a match against Davidson at Cameron Indoor Stadium on August 20, 2022.

Duke senior volleyball player Rachel Richardson hits the ball during a match against Davidson at Cameron Indoor Stadium on August 20, 2022.

Duke athletics

Brigham Young University has banned spectators from attending events at any of its athletic venues following an incident in which racial slurs were directed at Black Duke players during a volleyball match on its campus Friday night.

In a statement issued Saturday, university officials said the banned spectator was not a BYU student but was sitting in the student section during the 10th-ranked Cougars’ 3-1 win over Duke in Provo, Utah. A crowd of 5,507, a record for a volleyball game at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse, attended the match.

“To say that we are extremely disheartened by the actions of a small number of fans at last night’s volleyball game in Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not an understatement,” the statement said. “We will not tolerate such behavior. Specifically, the use of a racial slur at any of our sporting events is absolutely unacceptable and BYU athletics maintains a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior.”

The match was part of BYU’s doTERRA Classic, in which Duke played two games on Friday and one on Saturday.

Duke sophomore outside hitter Rachel Richardson, who is Black, released a statement Sunday saying she and her Black teammates were “targeted and racially heckled throughout the match.”

Richardson said the slurs and comments “escalated into threats that made us feel unsafe.”

During a phone interview Sunday, Marvin Richardson, Rachel’s father, said she called him as soon as she was on the bus after the Duke game ended Friday night. The two talked for several hours, until after 2 am Eastern time.

“We woke up well into the night here,” Marvin Richardson said. “Just trying to make sure we were able to support her and listen to her and be there for her.”

He said his daughter’s emotional distress was clear over the phone as soon as their conversation began.

“She was crying and scared and I wasn’t there to be able to make her feel safe,” the elder Richardson said. He said he has been in contact with administrators at both Duke and BYU.

Richardson has two other daughters who played college volleyball. In years of traveling the country to follow his children’s competitions, he said he and his family have never experienced anything like what Rachel endured Friday.

“No one else should have to deal with this,” he said. “So we have to do everything we can, and take every opportunity, to call these kinds of situations what they are. That’s wrong, they’re hateful, and they’re wrong, and they have no place in college athletics, or in any any other place in our society.”

On Saturday, Duke announced that its matchup with Rider, originally scheduled to be at Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday, would be moved to another gym in Provo. The game was played at a local high school, with only staff and family members allowed to participate.

“First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes,” Duke athletic director Nina King said in a statement. “They should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment that promotes equality and fair play. After extremely unfortunate circumstances at Friday night’s game at BYU, we are forced to move today’s game against Rider to a different location to provide both teams the safest atmosphere for competition.”

Richardson, in her statement, said BYU coaches were alerted to the situation during the game.

“We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially to its student-athletes competing last night for what they experienced,” the BYU statement said. “We want BYU sporting events to provide a safe environment for everyone and there is no place for such behaviors on our venues.”

King said more than one Duke player felt the effects of the incident, thus Duke’s insistence on moving Saturday’s game.

“We appreciate the support of BYU’s athletic administration as we navigate this troubling situation,” King said. “I have been in contact with the student-athletes who have been deeply affected, will continue to support them in any way I can and look forward to connecting further after their return from Provo.”

Duke defeated Rider, 3-1, Saturday night. Richardson started, recording five kills and leading the team with three service aces.

Before BYU’s volleyball match with Washington State later Saturday night at Smith Fieldhouse, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed the incident, which he said involved “some nasty and hurtful calumnies,” in speaking to the crowd.

“I want you to know that this morning I visited with the young athlete on the Duke team and her coach,” Holmoe said. “If you had met her, you would have loved her. But you don’t know her, so you don’t feel that way. As children of God, we are responsible. It is our mission to love one another and treat everyone with respect. That didn’t happen. We were very short. We didn’t live up to our best.”

On Sunday, Duke president Vince Price released a statement condemning the events and pledging support for the team in the coming days.

“I am outraged by the racist slurs and taunts directed at members of our volleyball team at BYU this weekend,” Price said. “Duke is fully committed to providing a safe, inclusive environment for competition, and we will not tolerate any racism or harassment of our student-athletes, coaches, staff or fans.”

On Saturday night, Utah Governor Spencer Cox released a statement on Twitter denouncing the fan who used the racial slur and the way the situation was handled.

“I am disgusted that this behavior is happening and deeply saddened if others did not step in to stop it,” Cox said.

This story was originally published August 27, 2022 5:50 p.m.

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Andrew Carter spent 10 years covering major college athletics, six of them covering the University of North Carolina for The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer. Now he is a member of the statewide enterprise and investigative reporting team of The N&O and Observer. He attended NC State and grew up in Raleigh dreaming of becoming a journalist.

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Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. He placed second in both beat writing and breaking news in the 2019 Associated Press Sports Editors national competition. Previously, Steve worked for The State (Columbia, SC), Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, SC), The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.), Charlotte Observer and Hickory (NC) Daily Record covering beats including Carolina Panthers and New de the NFL. Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the SC General Assembly. He has won many state level press association awards. Steve graduated from Illinois State University in 1989.

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