BYU: No evidence to support Duke volleyball player’s claim that fans shouted racial slurs

by WorldTribune Staff, September 9, 2022

After an “extensive review” Brigham Young University announced on Thursday that it had found no evidence that BYU fans had shouted racial slurs at a black Duke University volleyball player during a match last month.

“BYU has completed its investigation into the allegation that racial heckling and slurs took place at the Duke vs. BYU women’s volleyball match on August 26,” BYU said in a statement. “We reviewed all available video and audio recordings, including security footage and raw footage from all camera angles taken by BYUtv of the match, with broadcasting audio removed (to ensure that the noise from the stands could be heard more clearly). We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event: Duke athletic department personnel and student-athletes, BYU athletic department personnel and student-athletes, event security and management and fans who were in the arena that evening, including many of the fans in the on-court student section.

Rachel Richardson

“From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event. As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation.”

During the Aug. 26 match at BYU, Duke player Rachel Richardson claimed that she and her fellow black teammates were heckled and targeted with racial slurs repeatedly.

Richardson tweeted: “The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe,” adding that BYU coaches and game officials were made aware of the incident but “failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior. They also failed to adequately address the situation immediately following the game when it was brought to their attention again.”

Richardson expanded her claims further in an interview with ESPN, saying that someone in the BYU student section shouted the N-word each time she was in the serving position.

“In the fourth set, we went back to that side, and it was almost as if the atmosphere of the student section had changed,” she told ESPN. “Even my black teammates who were on the bench, who don’t play, they were being called out, pointed at and it was really confusing as to why. That’s when the racial slurs and heckling just grew more and more intense. I heard a very strong, negative racial slur… 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,” she said, adding that the BYU section had gotten “more extreme, more intense.”

Richardson and Duke “identified” a man, who reports say was not a BYU student and was autistic, they said was responsible for yelling the N-word.

Richardson told ESPN the man was recording things on his phone, and “we were just made very uncomfortable by him in particular.”

BYU athletics initially appeared to agree with Richardson’s claim of racist slurs in an official statement on Twitter indicating that they had “banned a fan who was identified by Duke during last night’s volleyball match from all BYU athletic venues.”

In their statement on Thursday, BYU apologized to the fan: “As a result of our investigation, we have lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match. We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity. BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.”

Richardson’s claims went viral, with major news outlets around the country reporting the claims as fact even though evidence that the incident never occurred began to emerge soon after the match.

Several news outlets have since reported that several members of the BYU men’s basketball team, which has several black players, were seated in the student section during the Aug. 26 volleyball match and said they also did not hear racial epithets.

“Duke University, whose lacrosse team was famously falsely accused of race-tinged sexual violence causing considerable damage to the accused and the university, has a responsibility and duty more than any institution of higher learning in America to set the record straight and admit that continued racial heckling did not occur,” Dallas Woodhouse wrote for The Carolina Journal on Sept. 8.

Woodhouse added: In total, Richardson and Duke appear to have falsely accused:

• An autistic man who is described as “mentally challenged” and handicapped of being the guilty party.
• BYU students at large yell racial epithets and allow others to do so.
• BYU administrators of not taking immediate action after being made aware of the allegations during the match.

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