Brigham Young University has asked people who were at the Aug. 26 game for help finding the person who yelled slurs at a Black player for Duke University.
Brigham Young University said Tuesday that it was still investigating who was responsible for the racist slurs and threats that a Black player for Duke University’s women’s volleyball team said were directed at her at a match on Aug. 26.
After the match, B.Y.U. banned a person who had been sitting in its fan section from all university sporting events. But last week the school told The Salt Lake Tribune and other local media that it had not found evidence that the unidentified spectator was responsible for the shouted slurs.
“The investigation is ongoing,” the university’s associate athletic director, Jon McBride, said Tuesday in an email. “We are investigating fan behavior as well as the B.Y.U. response to the behavior, reviewing video and audio as well as taking firsthand accounts from individuals who were present.”
McBride said that the person who was banned had been pointed out by Duke University, but that B.Y.U. had been “unable to find any evidence of that person using slurs in the match.”The university has not identified the person, but said it was not a student. McBride did not respond to a question asking if the ban had been lifted.
More than 5,500 people were in the stands. The school asked people who were at the game to share videos to help with the investigation, The Tribune reported.
The Duke player’s father, Marvin Richardson, told The New York Times after the game that a slur was repeatedly yelled from the stands as his daughter, Rachel Richardson, was serving and that she feared the “raucous” crowd. In a text message on Tuesday, he said the family was declining to comment on the investigation.
After the episode, a police officer was placed on Duke’s bench. Duke also changed the venue of a tournament game from Brigham Young’s George Albert Smith Fieldhouse to a location in Provo, Utah, to create a safer atmosphere for both teams.
Two days after the game, Richardson, a sophomore, said in a statement posted on Twitter that she and her African American teammates were “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match.”
She said the heckling grew into threats and that the B.Y.U. coaching staff and officials “failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment” after the problem was raised.
“As a result, my teammates and I had to struggle just to get through the rest of the game, instead of just being able to focus on our playing so that we could compete at the highest level possible,” Richardson said.
She said that the fan behavior did not reflect the conduct of her competitors, who she said showed “respect and good sportsmanship on and off the court.” She said B.Y.U.’s athletic director, Tom Holmoe, was quick to act.
The university is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In an opinion piece published on Thursday in The Deseret News, which is owned by the church, Holmoe said the university and its athletic department were “committed to zero-tolerance of racism” and would ban any fan using racist insults at its venues.
“Let me be clear where B.Y.U. stands on this issue: Racism is disgusting and unacceptable,” he wrote. “We have worked to understand and follow-up on Rachel’s experience with sincere commitment and ongoing concern. To say we were extremely disheartened by her report is not strong enough language.”
The B.Y.U. campus is predominantly white and Mormon. Less than 1 percent of the student population is Black, and many students of color “feel unsafe and isolated” at the school, according to a February 2021 report by a university committee that studied race on campus.
Black Menaces, a group founded by Black students at B.Y.U. that uses social media to discuss racism on college campuses, said they were disturbed by a “lack of action” from people at the game. “Out of the 5,000 people in attendance, no one had the bravery or courage to denounce pure racism,” the group said in a statement.
At least one B.Y.U. competitor was not satisfied with the school’s response.
On Friday, Dawn Staley, the coach of the University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team, said she was canceling scheduled games against B.Y.U. in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons, including the season opener on Nov. 7, because of the behavior described at the volleyball game with Duke.
“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement. “The incident at B.Y.U. has led me to re-evaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.” A “home and home” is where each team agrees to host one home game.
In a statement on Twitter, the B.Y.U. women’s basketball team said they were “extremely disappointed” by this decision and asked for “patience” in the investigation.
“We believe the solution is to work together to root out racism and not to separate from one another,” the statement said.