BYU said it found no evidence of racial slurs during a women’s volleyball match against Duke last month after what the school called an “extensive review” of the incident.
Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson, who is Black, said she repeatedly heard racial slurs directed at her during the Aug. 26 match from someone sitting in the BYU student section. Richardson’s godmother also said the player was called a racial slur “every time he served.”
BYU banned a fan from all of its athletic events shortly after Richardson’s allegations but lifted the ban following its investigation, which the school says included a review of all available video and audio recordings and communications -interact with more than 50 people who attended the event, including several Duke athletes and staff. The review included security camera footage and footage from BYUtv that had audio removed from the broadcast.
“From our extensive review, we did not find any evidence to substantiate the allegation that fans engaged in racial slurs or uttered racial slurs at the event,” BYU said in a statement. “As we said earlier, we will not tolerate any behavior that makes a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation.
“As a result of our investigation, we have lifted the ban on the fan who was found to have uttered racial slurs during the match. We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such activity. We sincerely apologize to BYU to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.”
BYU communicated the results of the investigation to Duke before releasing its statement, the school told ESPN. The schools’ athletic directors, BYU’s Tom Holmoe and Duke’s Nina King, have been in regular talks throughout the investigation.
Richardson informed his coaches about the prank during the match. He later told ESPN’s Holly Rowe about the incident: “I heard very loud, negative racial slurs. … So I served the ball, the play was over. And then the next time I came back to serve, I’ve heard it a lot. It’s clear again, but that’s the end of the game.”
Holmoe met with Richardson on Aug. 27 and made several changes to its fan code of conduct, including moving where volleyball fans sit during matches. Richardson praised Holmoe for his approach to the incident, telling Rowe, “I can see how saddened and honestly shocked he is that this happened.”
Duke AD King on Friday expressed the university’s support for Richardson and all members of the school’s volleyball team.
“The 18 members of the Duke University volleyball team are extremely strong women who represent themselves, their families, and Duke University with the utmost integrity,” King said in a statement. “We unequivocally stand with them and champion them, especially when their character is in question. Duke Athletics believes in respect, equality and inclusion, and we do not tolerate hatred and prejudice.”
In a statement Friday, BYU reiterated its commitment to a zero tolerance policy for racism at any of its athletic events.
“Some may assume that we are selective in our analysis,” the BYU statement said. “On the contrary, we have tried to be as thorough as possible in our investigation, and we renew our invitation for anyone with evidence contrary to our findings to come forward and share it. many recordings and interviews, we hope that the all involved are our sincere efforts to ensure the safety of all student-athletes competing at BYU.”
The South Carolina women’s basketball team recently canceled a home-and-home series against BYU, citing the incident at the Duke-BYU volleyball match.
“I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series,” said Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley in a statement on September 2.
BYU said it was “deeply disappointed” in South Carolina’s decision and asked for patience while it reviews the allegations.