Black Duke volleyball player speaks out about racist abuse at BYU game

By Thomson Reuters Aug 28, 2022 | 3:17 PM

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – A Black Duke University women’s volleyball player who had racial slurs hurled at her from the crowd during Friday’s match against Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, spoke out on Sunday about the incident that drew national condemnation.

Rachel Richardson, a 19-year-old sophomore player and outside hitter, said she and her Black teammates were “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match,” which took place in front of 5,000 spectators.

In a statement, she said the slurs grew into “threats which caused us to feel unsafe.”

Richardson said BYU officials and coaching staff were alerted to the situation during and immediately after the game, “but [they] failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior.”

She said she understood that some people would have liked more to happen “in the moment,” such as an immediate protest and refusal to play on. She said the heckling took a mental toll, but she refused to let it stop her doing what she loves.

“I refused to allow those racist bigots to feel any degree of satisfaction from thinking that their comments had ‘gotten to me,'” she said. “So, I pushed through and finished the game.”

Their BYU student opponents, Richardson said, “showed nothing but respect and good sportsmanship on and off the court.”

Following Friday’s incident, Duke said it was moving the location of its game on Saturday against Rider to ensure a safe atmosphere for both teams. It said players should always be able to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment.

BYU apologized to the Duke players, and said it was completely committed to rooting out racism. BYU said it had banned a fan identified by Duke from all BYU Athletic venues.

Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox wrote on Twitter late on Saturday, “I’m disgusted that this behavior is happening and deeply saddened if others didn’t step up to stop it.”

Attention was drawn to the incident in part by Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, who wrote on Twitter on Saturday that Richardson had also been threatened by a white man who told her to watch her back going to the team bus.

“A police officer had to be put by their bench,” Pamplin tweeted. She confirmed the account in an interview with Reuters.

Calls to BYU officials and the BYU Police Department seeking comment were not returned on Sunday.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Daniel Wallis)