Duke volleyball’s Rachel Richardson says BYU slow to respond to racial slurs

The Duke volleyball player who was subjected to racial slurs during a match at BYU said Sunday that officials on-site didn’t react quickly enough when they were made aware of the behavior during play.

Nor did they adequately address the situation immediately after the game, Rachel Richardson said in a statement posted to her Twitter account.

“No athlete, regardless of their race should ever be subject to such hostile conditions,” said Richardson, the only Black starter on the Blue Devils team.

BYU banned a fan from all athletic venues on campus Saturday, a day after the match, and said the athletic department has a “zero-tolerance approach to this behavior.” The fan was not a student but was sitting in the student section.

Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, had tweeted that Richardson was called a racial slur “every time she served” during the match. She also wrote 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, a 19-year-old sophomore from Ellicott City, Maryland, wrote that she didn’t believe the fan’s actions were a reflection of BYU athletes, saying her opponents showed respect and sportsmanship and that BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe reacted quickly once he was notified.

“This is not the first time this has happened in college athletics and sadly it likely will not be the last time,” Richardson said. “However, each time it happens we as student athletes, coaches, fans, and administrators have a chance to educate those who act in hateful ways.”

Richardson also responded to the idea that some people would have liked to see Duke’s team respond quickly, such as by refusing to continue playing in what became a 3-1 victory for BYU.

“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,” Richardson said. “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.

“Therefore, on behalf of my African American teammates and I, we do not want to receive pity or to be looked at as helpless. We do not feel as though we are victims of some tragic unavoidable event. We are proud to be young African American women; we are proud to be Duke student athletes, and we are proud to stand up against racism.”

Duke had its Saturday match against Rider moved from BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse to a different venue in Provo, Utah. Richardson led the Blue Devils with three aces in the 3-1 win.

Later Sunday, Duke issued a statement, saying, “We stand against any form of racism, bigotry or hatred. As a program, we have worked extensively to create an inclusive and safe environment where our student-athletes feel heard and supported but are not naive to the fact that there is always work to be done.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.