Brigham Young University banned a spectator from attending its athletic venues after an incident in which a racial slur was directed toward a Duke player during a volleyball match on its campus Friday night.
University officials said the banned spectator is not a BYU student but was sitting in the student section during the No. 10th-ranked Cougars’ 3-1 win over Duke in Provo, Utah.
Duke sophomore outside hitter Rachel Richardson, who is Black, was the target of the slur, according to Lesa Pamplin, a Fort Worth attorney who is Richardson’s godmother.
On her Twitter account Saturday, Pamplin wrote Richardson was called a racial slur “every time she served.”
“She was threatened by a white male who told her to watch her back going to the team bus,” Pamplin wrote. “A police officer had to be put by their bench.”
Pamplin is a candidate for the judgeship in Tarrant County Criminal Court No. 5.
“To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a small number of fans in last night’s volleyball match in Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not strong enough language,” BYU officials wrote in a statement. “We will not tolerate behavior of this kind. Specifically, the use of a racial slur at any of our athletic events is absolutely unacceptable and BYU athletics holds a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior.”
The match was part of BYU’s doTERRA Classic. As a result, Duke announced Saturday that its match 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 high school with only staff and family members allowed to attend.
“First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes,” Duke athletics director Nina King wrote in a statement. “They should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment which promotes equality and fair play. Following extremely unfortunate circumstances at Friday night’s match at BYU, we are compelled to shift today’s match against Rider to a different location to afford both teams the safest atmosphere for competition.”
Pamplin said Richardson was upset and traumatized.
“We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its student-athletes competing last night for what they experienced,” BYU’s statement said. “We want BYU athletic events to provide a safe environment for all and there is no place for behaviors like this in our venues.” King said more than one Duke player felt the effects of the incident, thus Duke’s insistence on relocating Saturday’s match.
“We are appreciative of the support from BYU’s athletic administration as we navigate this troubling situation,” King said. “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.”
Duke defeated Rider, 3-1, on Saturday night. Richardson started, recording five kills and leading the team with three service aces. Richardson is a sophomore from Ellicott City, Maryland.
Prior to 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 egregious and hurtful slurs,” in a speech to the crowd.
“I want you to know that this morning, I visited with the young athlete on Duke’s team and her coach,” Holmoe said. “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’s our mission to love each other and treat everyone with respect. That didn’t happen. We fell very short. We didn’t live up to our best.”
At the same time, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued a statement on Twitter denouncing the fan who used the racial slur and the way the situation was handled. “I’m disgusted that this behavior is happening and deeply saddened if others didn’t step up to stop it,” Cox wrote.
A crowd of 5,507, a record for a volleyball match at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse, attended the match.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff writer Emerson Clarridge contributed to this report.