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Volleyball Player Claims She Was Called Slur During Game, No Evidence Found

Brigham Young University announced Friday that there is no evidence to confirm an allegation made by a Duke women’s volleyball player about a racial slur during a game last month.

Rachel Richardson, a 19-year-old who is the only black starter on the Blue Devils volleyball team, claimed she was subjected to racial slurs during a game against BYU in Utah.

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“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.

“The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe. Both of 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,” her statement said on Twitter.

Richardson noted that officials failed to “adequately address the situation immediately following the game when it was brought to their attention again.”

The day after the match, BYU banned a fan from all athletic venues on campus in Provo. They were reportedly sitting in the student section despite not being a student.

Richardson added that her statement was not “in anyway [sic] a reflection of what the BYU athletics stand for.”

She said Tom Holmoe, the BYU athletic director, was “quick to act in a very respectful and genuine manor” when he was made aware of the incident.

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BYU issued a statement a few days later about banning the fan. “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.”

“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 school added.

Officials said the school was investigating the incident, however, BYU police Lt. George Besendorfer said an initial investigation of the footage did not appear to show the person shouting anything while Richardson was serving.

BYU associate athletic director Jon McBride had said “The person who was banned was the person identified by Duke as using racial slurs. However, we have been unable to find any evidence of that person using slurs in the match.”

Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, tweeted that the player was called a racial slur “every time she served.” 

Pamplin also said she was “threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench.”

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the man banned was identified as a Utah Valley University student who denied shouting racial slurs but admitted to yelling at the players that they “shouldn’t hit the ball into the net.”

He also admitted to approaching the Duke player but claimed he thought she was a friend who played for BYU.

“From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event,” BYU said in a statement.

“As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation,” the school continued.

A BYU athletics official told the BYU Cougar Chronicle, the student-run newspaper, that the banned fan was identified as being “mentally challenged” and the ban was lifted.

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