Report says BYU police couldn't find evidence of racial slur directed at Duke volleyball team

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PROVO — After searching the stands at a BYU volleyball match Friday night against Duke and through game film, BYU police could not identify any evidence of a racial slur that was reportedly directed at members of the Blue Devils' women's volleyball team, a police report states.

BYU Police Sgt. Richard Laursen, who was the responding officer to the incident, said he did not believe the fan who was banned by BYU for allegedly using the slur committed the action, according to a report obtained by via a public records request.

After reviewing video surveillance of the BYU game film with a coach after the match, the officer — who also spent time in the BYU student section during the fourth set — said the banned spectator showed "nothing seen on the game film that led me to believe (he) was the person who was making comments to the player.

"During the second set, when the comment was reported to have been made, (he) was not present when the player was serving," the officer wrote in the report. "On her second time serving during the set, (he) was on his phone and didn't appear to be paying attention to the game."

BYU banned the fan from on-campus athletic events but did not indicate how long the ban would last. The ban was indefinite, the report said, "until further investigation could be done."

The fan, whose name was redacted from the report, has not been identified publicly.

Laursen added that he did not observe or hear any inappropriate comments or language from the student section during the match, including while he stood with the spectators during the fourth set.

Attempts to contact the BYU Police Department were referred to the university's communications team. has reached out to representatives from the BYU athletic department, who have not responded.

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, who first reported the use of a slur and other racial remarks, told ESPN that the incident began in the second set when she was serving, and that the crowd used tactics to try to intimidate opposing players, but in a different way than the 19-year-old sophomore has experienced. Broadcast footage reveals that Richardson served twice during the second set.

"I heard a very strong, negative racial slur," Richardson told ESPN's Holly Rowe. "So I served the ball, got through the play. And then the next time I went back to serve, I heard it extremely clear again, but that was the end of the game."

Richardson said in a statement released Sunday via social media that her intent was not to call out BYU, but "to call up." She praised the response of BYU athletic department officials, especially Athletic Director Tom Holmoe, who addressed the crowd prior to BYU's match Saturday against Washington State.

"One thing I can say is he's probably one of the most genuine people that I've ever met," Richardson said of Holmoe. "I very much so felt heard and felt seen during that conversation.

"I could see like how sorry he was and honestly shocked that it happened."

Both Holmoe and women's volleyball coach Heather Olmstead met with Richardson by the end of the weekend and apologized.

In response to the alleged incident, BYU said it is implementing changes to its fan code of conduct, which was highlighted prior to Monday's women's soccer match against Colorado. Volleyball fans will also no longer be seated behind the opponent on the baseline moving forward, according to ESPN, a change that began Saturday night.

Holmoe told CNN on Monday that after the athletic department was informed of the situation by the Duke volleyball team, they sent four ushers from events management and a uniformed police officer into the stands to investigate.

Laursen, who was only identified by his last name in the incident report, was asked to stand between the Duke players and the student section after the third set. From prior interactions during other athletic events, the officer identified the president of the Roar of Cougars student section and told her of the report of racial comments made toward the Duke players, according to the police report.

"(She) said she has been on the opposite side of the court from the team's bench, in the ROC section the entire game and she has not heard any racial or inappropriate comments from the ROC to the Duke players," the officer wrote. He said he "made eye contact" with board members in the section during the set, as well as a man later identified as a Duke associate or assistant athletic director, but no inappropriate comments were reported at the time.

During the set, the officer said he heard BYU fans "calling Duke players by their first names," he wrote. "The fans were trying to distract the Duke players. I heard them call one girl Lizzy and another girl Christina while the girls were serving the ball. I didn't hear any sexual or racial comments during the set," he added.

The officer remained near the crowd, and board members of the student section were staggered throughout the section to "listen for inappropriate comments from the ROC," according to the report.

Laursen added that while standing near the student section, he spoke with a fan who identified himself as "friends with four BYU volleyball players" but was not a student at the university. The officer speculated that the fan had special needs and was "articulate, but socially awkward," and that he "kept scrolling through his phone and didn't seem too involved in the game."

BYU won the match in four sets, and the officer escorted the officials to the locker room next to the volleyball court at the Smith Fieldhouse, which is common in all matches. While officials were meeting behind closed doors, he said he "walked back to the court and talked to a couple event staff" and spoke with a Duke player who thanked him "for having the team's back."

A cellphone records as Brigham Young University Athletic Director Tom Holmoe  speaks during a press conference in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Holmoe addressed fans before the BYU women's volleyball match Saturday against Washington State urging them to "root out racism" and treat all people, including opposing players and fans, with respect following the report of an alleged racial slur directed at the Duke women's volleyball team.
A cellphone records as Brigham Young University Athletic Director Tom Holmoe speaks during a press conference in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Holmoe addressed fans before the BYU women's volleyball match Saturday against Washington State urging them to "root out racism" and treat all people, including opposing players and fans, with respect following the report of an alleged racial slur directed at the Duke women's volleyball team. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

After finishing his role with the officials, the officer saw approximately 80 people on the court, sidelines and stands, and a number of athletic staff on the floor. One person, who identified themselves as a Duke assistant coach, told the officer that one of the fans "got into the face of one of the Duke players, and that the player felt uncomfortable by the fan."

The officer noticed that the fan singled out by the coach was "the same fan" whom he had met during the fourth set who was not a BYU student. After pulling him aside to investigate the complaint, the officer said the fan "was looking for one of his friends" and then spotted a BYU player, with whom he had conversation for three to five minutes.

Following the conversation, the officer followed the fan to the track outside the volleyball court, where he was told that the Duke team had reported the fan as the one who used a racial slur directed at players during the match. The fan denied the claim, but left campus with the officer after giving him his name and contact information.

After returning to campus, the officer met with BYU volleyball coaches and staff and learned that the Duke players and coaches were "very upset with what happened during the game and that the racial comments toward the Duke players (were) still happening during the fourth set, that I didn't do anything about the comments being made."

"I was told that only the first names of the African American players were being yelled by fans to the Duke players and that they were not calling any of the white girls by name," the officer wrote. "I told the athletic staff that I never heard one racial comment being made and that I heard the fans in the ROC section calling a girl Lizzy by name and a girl Christina by name.

"They were calling out other players by name, but these are the two names I remembered. Lizzy was wearing a blue uniform that was a different color than her teammates when she was serving the ball for Duke. She is a Caucasian player. Christina is an African American player."

The fan was then banned until the investigation could be completed.

In a separate report filed Sunday night, BYU was made aware of a "threatening" message that was left on a "BYU athletic coach's voicemail." The call was received anonymously, and an investigation into the threat is active. Holmoe said in a tweet Sunday night that head volleyball coach Heather Olmstead had received death threats following the allegations of racial slurs against the Duke player, which set off national headlines.

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