People are demanding that officials at Brigham Young University (BYU) take further action after Black volleyball players from Duke University were taunted with racial slurs during a game on Friday. But in a statement on Twitter Sunday afternoon, Duke Volleyball starter Rachael Richardson said she didn’t want pity. She said it was not a call out but a call up to BYU and the school’s athletic department.
“Both 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,” Richardson wrote. “They also failed to adequately address the situation immediately following the game when it was brought to their attention again. No athlete, regardless of their race, should ever be subjected to such hostile conditions.”
Richardson also said she did not believe it was a reflection on the BYU team itself.
Richardson and her teammates faced off against BYU at the University’s Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah. During the packed match, a rowdy crowd-goer called Richardson the N-word as she served and passed the ball to her teammates. According to reports, the racist agitator sat in the BYU section and was never asked to leave throughout the entire duration of the game.
After Richardson’s story spread across the internet, BYU issued a lengthy statement apologizing for the fan’s inappropriate behavior. They also banned the fan from attending future games.
“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 statement read. “We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its student-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.”
Social media slams BYU’s weak apology
Social media users criticized BYU for not stepping in to defend Richardson during the game. Richardson’s godmother Lesa Pamplin raised the alarm Saturday about the incident. She said that the disrespectful fan also “threatened” the 19-year-old volleyball star.
“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,” she tweeted. “Not one freaking adult did anything to protect her…You allowed this racist behavior to continue without intervening. Apologizing to her parents after the fact is not enough. She will soon be sharing her story.”
Brittney Packnett Cunningham commented, “We will not tolerate this behavior.” Y’all let this go on for the WHOLE. GAME. You “tolerated” it just fine until it went viral.”
Other users blasted Duke’s coach for not pulling the team off the floor during the incident.
Students of color feel “unsafe” at BYU, a 2021 report revealed
This isn’t the first time racism has reared its ugly head at BYU. A faculty report in 2021 showed that some students of color at the university felt “isolated and unsafe as a result of their experiences with racism,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Students claimed they had nowhere to bring their complaints of discrimination on the predominantly white campus. As a result, many students of color dropped out of the university. The report also addressed BYU’s lack of diversity within the school’s faculty and acknowledged that they had to do better.
“These experiences have left many disillusioned, brokenhearted, and struggling,” notes the 64-page report from the Committee on Race, Equity and Belonging. “Current systems at the university are inadequate for coordinating services for students seeking assistance with challenges related to race.”
Duke was scheduled to play against Rider at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse on Saturday, but the game was moved to another venue out of safety concerns for attendees.
“First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes,” Duke athletic director Nina King said in a statement. “They should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment that 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.”
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