Fan Banned from BYU Games After Allegedly Hurling a Racial Slur at a Player During Volleyball Match

·4 min read

Rick Bowmer/AP

Brigham Young University issued an apology on Saturday following an incident involving a fan making racist comments to one player during a women's volleyball match on Friday evening.

The game, between BYU and Duke University, took place at BYU's Smith Fieldhouse on the Provo, Utah, campus. During the game, a fan allegedly called Duke player Rachel Richardson, who is Black, a racial slur.

Richardson's Godmother, Lesa Pamplin, tweeted about the incident first, writing, "My Goddaughter is the only black starter for Dukes volleyball team. While playing yesterday, she was called a n----- every time she served."

Pamplin shared that Richardson, a 19-year-old sophomore from Ellicott City, Maryland, was "threatened by a white male" who told the athlete to "watch her back going to the team bus." Pamplin said a police officer was later assigned to stand by the Duke player's bench.

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BYU, a private university sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued an apology a day after the game, and also announced that they had banned the fan from their athletic venues in a statement on their official Twitter account. The statement clarified that the person was not a BYU student.

"All of God's children deserve love and respect, and BYU Athletics is completely committed to leading out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice of any kind and rooting out racism," the statement began.

"To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a small number of fans in last night's volleyball match in the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not strong enough language. We will not tolerate behavior of this kind, specifically the use of a racial slur, at any of our athletic events," it continued. "It is absolutely unacceptable and BYU Athletics holds a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior."

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Richardson herself spoke out via a lengthy statement posted to her Twitter Sunday afternoon, using the hashtag #morethanavolleyballplayer. She started by introducing herself, then detailing the events exactly as they unfolded.

"Friday night in our match against Brigham Young University my fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match," she said in the statement. "The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe. Both the officials and BYU coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game but failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment."

Richardson said that it was not her intention "call out" BYU, but to "call them up," noting a positive anti-racism seminar she and her fellow Duke athletes participated in.

The statement is in full on her account:

"We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its student-athletes competing last night for what they experienced," the statement added.

Duke later said that its match Saturday against Rider was moved from BYU's Smith Fieldhouse to a different venue in Provo via a statement they released following Friday's game.

"First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes," said Duke Vice President & Director of Athletics Nina King. "They should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment which promotes equality and fair play.

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"I have been in touch with the student-athletes who have been deeply impacted, will continue to support them in every way possible and look forward to connecting further upon their return from Provo," King's statement concluded.

BYU's Athletic Director, Tom Holmoe, spoke to fans at the relocated venue ahead of the follow-up game.

"I want you to know that this morning, I visited with the young athlete on Duke's team and her coach. If you would have 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 treat everyone with respect," he said.

Pamplin later detailed in a follow-up tweet that not "one freaking adult" protected her goddaughter.

"For far too long, individuals have been subjected to racist slurs, taunts, and threats like the unfortunate incident that happened to my goddaughter, Rachel Richardson, at BYU. It is unfortunate that this incident has only received attention after I tweeted about it," Pamplin said in an official statement.