Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson praises BYU AD for his actions after racial slur incident involving Cougars fan – ESPN

Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson praises BYU AD for his actions after racial slur incident involving Cougars fan - ESPN

Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson recounted how a series of racial slurs during a match last week at BYU made national news and reflected on how it changed her life in an interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe that aired Tuesday.

Richardson posted a statement to Twitter on Sunday, two days after fans yelled racial slurs at her while she was on duty. “No athlete, regardless of their race should ever be subjected to such hostile conditions,” she wrote at the time. BYU banned the fan from all athletic fields on campus Saturday, a day after the game, and said the athletic department has a “zero-tolerance approach to this behavior.”

The fan was not a student but was sitting in the student section.

Richardson told Rowe that the incidents began in the second suite when she was on duty. She said she was used to crowds trying to intimidate opposing players, but it was different that night.

“I heard a very strong, negative racial slur,” Richardson said. “… So I served the ball, got through the play. And then the next time I came back to serve, I heard it super clear again, but that was the end of the game.”

She said she told her coaches about the incident between games, and the teams switched ends of the floor. She said she saw her coaches talking to BYU officials, who she said acted on the incident. “We were told somebody was talking to the student section and I was like, okay, so, and that was the end of it,” Richardson said. “And we played our third set on the opposite side of the net from them.”

In the fourth set, she said the “atmosphere of the student section changed.” Richardson called the insults and heckling from the crowd “more extreme, more intense.” She said the man, who was eventually banned from BYU athletics, recorded things on his phone and “we were just very uncomfortable with him in particular.”

After the game, which BYU won three sets to one, Richardson returned to the team hotel. The Blue Devils’ next game, against Rider, was moved to another location.

Richardson praised BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, who she said came to talk to her at the team’s hotel the next morning.

“One thing I can say is he’s probably one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met,” she said. “I really felt heard and seen during that conversation.

“I could see how sorry he was and honestly shocked that it happened,” she said.

Richardson said Holmoe told her he would address the student section to “make players feel more comfortable in general.”

Holmoe later said that “I felt compelled to speak to our fans in attendance and address last night’s very unfortunate incident. Cougar Nation, we must be better, and we must have the courage to take care of each other and our guests at our sporting events from BYU.”

BYU implemented changes to its fan code of conduct, starting with a football game on Monday. Volleyball fans will also not be seated behind the opponent on the baseline going forward.

Richardson has been on a roll since the incident, returning to Duke to begin classes. She spoke with Rowe after finance class.

“I believe God puts you in places at certain times, near certain people for specific reasons,” Richardson said. “And I believe that and my teammates that, for some reason, my name was the one that exploded and I wholeheartedly. [believe] that’s because God had a purpose behind it. And that purpose was that maybe he knew that I would be able to meet people with compassion. And I don’t want BYU to be singled out or seen as a bad institution because of this one thing … that doesn’t represent the whole university of BYU.”

She knows many will be watching the Duke basketball student section, the Cameron Crazies, who are known to be among the toughest home crowds in sports. But she said things would be different at Duke.

“The moment something like that happened at a basketball game, you know, coach [Mike Krzyzewski] shut the game down, went and got the mic and was like if you do that you have to get out or [we’re] stopping the game,” Richardson said.

Holmoe told Rowe that BYU conducts intramural athletic department racial and equity education and is working on plans to expand to students and fans. He also said that, going forward, the school will authorize coaches and student-athletes to stop a game and not continue until issues are reviewed and action taken.

Richardson said in her Twitter statement that she did not want the game to be stopped because “I refused to allow those racist bigots to feel any degree of satisfaction from thinking that their comments ‘got to me’. So, I pushed on and ended the game.”

She told Rowe she was glad she made that decision.

“I believe that to meet anger with anger, it just starts a cycle of more anger,” Richardson said. “As a young black woman in America, I know I’m not privileged to react all the time or else it paints that face of, oh, you’re just another angry black woman and you know, my black male counterparts, they don’t have that either privilege or else it’s just, oh, that’s just like an aggressive angry Black man.”

She said her parents taught her to “be aware of how you are perceived” and to be respectful.

“In light of, oh, that’s just another Black person. Like, no, they have to look at me as a human being, as a human being they’re forced to respect me,” Richardson said. “And that’s exactly what I wanted in that game. I could have turned around and I could have said bad things back. I could have done anything. I could have been rude to the athletic director when he was kind enough to come talk to me. in person.

“I could be rude when I talked to the BYU coach, but no, that doesn’t get you anywhere. I could point fingers and say like, I [want] BYU volleyball to be shut down. I want that victory taken away from them. No, because that won’t lead anyone. That won’t do anything. And that would make all of this back into just one situation.”

Richardson added: “… It was just a bad situation that was handled badly. Yet people apologized. We can move forward from it. Now we’re starting to be proactive. Now we’re starting to take steps in the right direction. We can move forward. from it.” You know, I already told the coach and the athletic director, you know, I forgive you and it wasn’t your fault it happened. It was your fans. So you didn’t do anything to wrong me.”

Richardson said she heard from volleyball players and other athletes and students at BYU.

“I don’t even want them to feel embarrassed about it,” she said. “Like, it’s unfortunate that it happened there, but the fact that they’re comfortable enough to reach out to me and let me know that they still support me just shows how good people they really are. .”

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