Brigham Young University said a fan has been banned for directing racial slurs at a Duke volleyball player during their match on Friday in Provo, Utah.
BYU says the fan was not a student although they sat in the student section. The school released a statement Saturday afternoon apologizing to Duke and its student athletes.
The accusation first surfaced Saturday through a post on Twitter from Lesa Pamplin, a Fort Worth, Texas attorney, who says the Duke player — Rachel Richardson, a sophomore outside hitter from Ellicott City, Maryland — is her goddaughter and the only Black starter for the Blue Devils volleyball team.
Pamplin said in the post that BYU fans directed slurs at Richardson every time she served. She also said that Richardson was threatened and authorities had to sit at the Duke bench for their protection. A email sent to Pamplin seeking comment from USA TODAY Sports was not immediately returned.
In its statement, BYU did not disclose how long the fan was banned for.
“To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a small number of fans in last night’s volleyball match in the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not strong enough language. We will not tolerate behavior of this kind. Specially, 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 said in a statement. “We want BYU athletic events to provide a safe environment for all, and there is no place for behaviors like this our venues.”
Duke issued its own statement shortly afterwards in an email to USA TODAY Sports.
“First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes,” Duke Vice President & Director of Athletics Nina King said in the statement. “They should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment which 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.”
BYU’s athletic director Thomas Holmoe told USA TODAY Sports that he spoke with Richardson and Duke volleyball coach Jolene Nagel and the decision was made to move Saturday’s match against Rider to an alternate site in Provo.
Both said they were hurt and disappointed at the incident not being stopped and also expressed they had no issues with the BYU players.
Holmoe said the school is looking into the incident and says no further discipline is expected except for the fan that was banned and anyone else identified in making the slurs.
“My concern is for Rachel and her well-being, and the school has investigated up to this point. The bottom line is that we are going to have to do more,” Holmoe said. “And we are going to have to be vigilant and continue to say that this is not to be tolerated in any way.”