BYU bans fan after alleged racial incident with Duke volleyball player

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PROVO — Another ugly altercation has resulted in a Utah sports fan being banned from a venue, this time at Brigham Young University.

A fan was banned from the Smith Fieldhouse and all other athletic venues on campus after they were identified by the Duke women's volleyball team for racially taunting a Black player during the Cougars' 3-1 win Friday night over the Blue Devils.

The fan was identified in the BYU student section but was not a BYU student, the university said in a statement.

The game was played in front of a home crowd of 5,507, the most inside the Smith Fieldhouse in BYU women's volleyball history. By the middle of the second set — with several fans still streaming into the sold-out venue — a police officer could be seen near the Duke bench. There was no stoppage of play for the alleged incident.

"All of God's children deserve love and respect," BYU said in a statement that announced the ban, "and BYU athletics is completely committed to leading out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice of any kind and rooting out racism. When a student-athlete or a fan comes to a BYU sporting event, we expect that they will be treated with love and respect and feel safe on our campus. It is for this reason BYU has banned a fan who was identified by Duke during last night's volleyball match from all BYU athletic venues. Although this fan was sitting in BYU's student section, this person is not a BYU student.

"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. 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. 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."

Representatives from the Duke athletic department said the Blue Devils' final match of the doTerra Classic will be played at an alternate venue. Duke was scheduled to tip off against Rider at 4 p.m. MDT.

"First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes," said Duke athletic director Nina King in a statement from the school. "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."

The player in question was identified on social media as Rachel Richardson, a starting outside hitter on the Blue Devils' women's volleyball team who is the only Black starter. A native of Ellicott City, Maryland, the sophomore who earned ACC Academic Honor Roll honors last year totaled 4 points, four digs and an assist in the Blue Devils' 25-14, 25-19, 19-25, 25-19 loss to the 10th-ranked Cougars.

According to Richardson's godmother, Lesa Pamplin, the outside hitter was called a racial slur "every time she served" by a fan in attendance, and threatened by a white male who "told her to watch her back going to the team bus," Pamplin said on Twitter.

Pamplin said a police officer was brought to the team bench during the match, which video from BYUtv's broadcast of the match confirms. Police officers are commonly assigned to BYU athletic events for security purposes, either from the university's on-campus force, Provo police, or the Utah Highway Patrol.

But Pamplin also claims that "not one freaking adult did anything to protect her" in a series of follow-up tweets directed at both BYU and Duke. She added that Richardson is "upset," "traumatized" and her parents will speak to the Duke athletic director Saturday.

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told USA Today that he had spoken with Richardson and Duke coach Jolene Nagel about the incident, and the decision was made to move Saturday's match to an alternate site. Both player and coach said they were "hurt and disappointed at the incident not being stopped and also expressed they had no issues with the BYU players," the newspaper reported.

BYU's investigation into the incident remains ongoing, but no further discipline is expected other than for the fan that was banned and anyone else who will be discovered to have used a slur, USA Today reported.

"My concern is for Rachel and her well-being, and the school has investigated up to this point," Holmoe said. "The bottom line is that we are going to have to do more. And we are going to have to be vigilant and continue to say that this is not to be tolerated in any way."

BYU wraps up the four-team, round-robin invitational at 7 p.m. MDT against Washington State.


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