Leaders of athletic programs at Duke and Brigham Young universities decried the fact that a fan repeatedly yelled a racial slur at a volleyball player this weekend, but took responsibility for stopping a similar attack in the future.
Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson posted on Twitter that she was targeted and “racially heckled” during the Aug. 26 away game at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse. At least one fan repeatedly yelled the n-word at Richardson as she went to serve.
WRAL News has reached out to Duke University to request an interview with Athletic Director Nina King and volleyball coach Jolene Nagel, but neither were made available. WRAL News also reached out to BYU to ask why the school did not do more, but has not heard back.
Richardson’s father, Marvin Richardson, spoke to CNN.
“Rachel’s very strong, very mentally tough, but she’s 19 years old,” Marvin Richardson said.
Marvin Richardson did not attend the BYU-Duke match, but said his daughter called him afterwards in tears.
In the hours and days after the racist remark, BYU and Duke officials both put out statements, but no one stepped in during the match to stop the alleged verbal abuse.
Marvin Richardson and many others want to know why no one condemned the action immediately.
“What I would like to see going forward is that we take every effort, make every effort, to make sure that those venues are safe and free from that kind of action,” said Marvin Richardson.
BYU’s statement said in part:
“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. We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its students -athlete competing last night for what they experienced. We want BYU athletic events to provide a safe environment for all, and there is no place for behaviors like this in our venues.”
BYU has banned the fan who yelled the slur from all athletic venues on campus, according to the statement. The fan was sitting in the BYU student section but was not a student, the statement said.
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe also addressed fans on Aug. 28.
“I want you to know that this morning I visited with the young athlete on Duke’s team and her coach,” Holmoe said in part. “If you would have met her, you would have loved her … as children of God, it’s our mission to love one another and to treat everyone with respect – and that didn’t happen, we fell very short. We didn’t live up to our best.”
On Saturday, Duke issued a statement of his own.
“First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes,” King said in the 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 forced to shift [Saturday’s] match against Rider to a different location to afford both teams the safest atmosphere for competition.”
Duke football offensive tackle Brian Parker II said he thought the university’s administration was doing a great job at how they’re handling the situation.
“There are still messed up people in this world,” Parker said. “We can’t always change everybody, but we can definitely try to.”
Parker offered his support to Rachel Richardson.
“It shouldn’t happen,” Parker said. “It’s an awful thing.”
99.9 The Fan’s Joe Giglio offered his reaction to the racist remarks.
“It’s such a disgusting incident and you sit here and you have to remind yourself, you look at a calendar and go, ‘Is it really 2022 and it’s still happening to Black athletes?'” Giglio said.
Giglio mentioned how this is not the first time a fan has made a racist remark at a sporting event in Utah. Last year, the NBA’s Utah Jazz banned three people who made racist comments at a game. In 2019, NBA star Russell Westbrook said a fan made a “racial” taunt at him.
Mark Anthony Neal, a professor and chair of the African and African American Studies Department at Duke, said, “I think I was shocked but not surprised and, of course, a little saddened that in 2022, that we’re still dealing with these kinds of issues, particularly in the sense that we’ve always thought of athletics as an even playing field, as a pure meritocracy.
“And, that folks would be accepted in those spaces as long as they would be able to produce.”
Neal questioned why NCAA officials or either coach did not hold the fan accountable. Giglio wondered why coaches and teammates didn’t step in.
“Obviously, the NCAA officials who were there as well as the coaches on both sides, and all the other adults in the room, should have been much more proactive,” Neal said.
Neal said that if he were in the same situation, he would have protected the player.
“Unfortunately, even in 2022, this is still a teaching moment,” Neal said. “For folks who would like to believe that we actually do live in a post-racial society, this is just yet another reminder of the challenges that African Americans, in this instance, face on a daily basis just to do their jobs, to do what’s expected of them.”