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Duke volleyball player says BYU officials failed to stop racist heckling during game in newly released statement

Originally Published: 28 AUG 22 16:25 ET
Updated: 29 AUG 22 03:22 ET

(CNN) — A player on the Duke University women’s volleyball team says Brigham Young University officials in Utah did not act quick enough to stop the racist harassment she and other Black players were subject to during a Friday game.

Rachel Richardson, a sophomore outside hitter for Duke, tweeted a statement Sunday explaining she was not the only player who was the target of the racist slurs and heckling.

“Friday night in our match against Brigham Young University my fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match,” Richardson tweeted. “The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe.”

Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, initially tweeted about the incident Saturday, accusing the school of allowing the behavior without intervening.

“My Goddaughter is the only black starter for Dukes volleyball team. While playing yesterday, she was called a n***er every time she served,” Pamplin’s tweet read.

The incident led to an apology from BYU, the school banning a fan and Duke changing the locations of the team’s next game. It also caught the attention of NBA superstar LeBron James, who tweeted: “We are a brotherhood and sisterhood! We have her back. This is not sports.”

Richardson said both BYU officials and coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game, “but failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment.” Even after the incident was brought to their attention, Richardson said BYU officials “failed to adequately address the situation.”

The harassment resulted in Richardson and her teammates struggling to get through the game, as opposed to just being able to focus on their play, she tweeted.

“No athlete, regardless of their race should ever be subject to such hostile conditions,” Richardson’s tweet read.

Richardson also addressed comments that she or her teammates should have refused to continue playing.

“Although the heckling eventually took a mental toll on me, I refused to allow it to stop me from doing what I love to do and what I came to BYU to do; which was to play volleyball,” her tweet read. “I refused to allow those racist bigots to feel any degree of satisfaction from thinking that their comments had ‘gotten to me’. So, I pushed through and finished the game.”

Despite the incident, Richardson said she does not believe this was a reflection of BYU athletes. She complimented their players on a great game and showing “nothing but respect and good sportsmanship on and off the court.”

BYU Athletics did not confirm the specifics of the incident but announced they had banned a fan from all athletic venues and tweeted an apology.

“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,” according to the statement.

“We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its student-athletes competing last night for what they experienced,” the statement read.

The statement said the person in question was not a BYU student, despite sitting in the student section.

The incident led Duke University to announce they were moving the location of their Saturday game and their priority was the safety of student-athletes.

“They should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment which promotes equality and fair play,” Duke’s statement read.

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