BYU bans fan who yelled slur at Black player on Duke’s women’s volleyball team

PROVO, Utah — BYU banned a fan who yelled a racial slur at a Black player on the Duke volleyball team during a match Friday night, the university said in a statement Saturday.

The fan was sitting in the BYU student section but was not a student, and has been banned from all athletic venues on campus, the statement said.

“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,” the statement said. “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.”

The player, Rachel Richardson, who is the only Black starter on the team, was called a racial slur “every time she served,” Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, said in a tweet.

“For far too long, individuals have been subjected to racist slurs, taunts, and threats like the unfortunate incident that happened to my goddaughter, Rachel Richardson, at BYU. It is unfortunate that this incident has only received attention after I tweeted about it,” Pamplin, a candidate for circuit court judge in Fort Worth, Texas, said in an emailed statement.

“Every American should be enraged that a young lady was subjected to hateful, demeaning language, and we should be even more outraged that it took a tweet from me in Tarrant County, Texas, to bring this incident to light,” the statement continued.

Pamplin tweeted that Richardson “was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench.”

Richardson is a 19-year-old sophomore from Ellicott City, Maryland.

Duke said its match Saturday against Rider was moved from BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse to a different venue in Provo.

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

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, for his part, addressed the home crowd at Smith Fieldhouse before Saturday night’s game against Washington State: “I felt compelled to talk to our fans in attendance and address last night’s very unfortunate incident. Cougar Nation, we’ve got to be better, and we’ve got to have the courage to take care of each other and our guests at our BYU sporting events.”

Duke and BYU are playing in a four-team, round-robin invitational along with Rider and Washington State. BYU beat Duke 3-1 on Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.