Duke women volleyball players felt unsafe after barrage of racial slurs, threats by BYU fan

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Monday, August 29, 2022
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Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson said she and her fellow African American teammates were racially heckled throughout the entire game and as the slurs grew into threats they no longer felt safe.

PROVO, Utah -- A Duke women's volleyball player was harassed and threatened during a game Friday night at Brigham Young.

The Duke player, who is Black, was apparently called a racial slur by a BYU fan sitting in the student section.

Sunday, Duke confirmed the incident from Friday and said Saturday's match against Rider was moved to a different location.

Duke officials also provided a statement about the incident:

"First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes," said Duke Vice President & Director of Athletics Nina King. "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. We are appreciative of the support from BYU's athletic administration as we navigate this troubling situation. I have been in touch with the student-athletes who have been deeply impacted, will continue to support them in every way possible and look forward to connecting further upon their return from Provo."

One of the players (Rachael Richardson) who was subjected to the barrage of slurs, insults and threats also released a statement via Twitter on behalf of herself and the other targeted players. Richardson, a Duke sophomore, said she and her fellow African American teammates were racially heckled throughout the entire game and as the slurs grew into threats they no longer felt safe.

She said the players struggled to play at their best level because of being concerned about their safety. Richardson goes on to say she doesn't think BYU handled the situation well after it was brought to the school's attention. She said the incident is not a reflection of the BYU players.

BYU's athletics director Tom Holmoe addressed fans before Saturday's match.

BYU said that the fan was not a student at the university and the person has been banned from athletic events.

On Saturday, Duke released a statementt that read in part: "Our Duke student-athletes should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive ... anti-racist environment which promotes equality and fair play."

BYU's Athletic Department responded to the incident by saying, "All of God's children deserve love and respect ... and BYU Athletics is completely committed to leading out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice of any kind and rooting out racism."

BYU also said it "wholeheartedly" apologized to Duke University and "especially its student-athletes."

The godmother of Rachel Richardson, the Duke player, first drew attention to the incident on social media and later tweeted a statement, saying in part, that "we must, as a country, do better."