PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – A player on the Duke University women’s volleyball team, who says she was subjected to racial slurs and threatened at a match against BYU Friday, recently released a statement, saying that officials on-site did not act quickly enough to stop the racial harassment.
Rachel Richardson, who is a sophomore on the team, wrote in a tweet that at the match, “My fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match. The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe.”
She said that “both the officials and BYU coaching staff were made aware of what happened, but failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment.”
Her father, Marvin Richardson, in an interview with ABC4 said, “I hate the fact that the same thing that could’ve happened to me 40 years ago is happening to my child today, but I am encouraged by the fact she’s standing up and others are rallying around her.”
He says his daughter called him Friday evening and explained what happened, in tears. He said, “I was first angry, second, probably blaming myself for not being there to make sure she felt the comfort and support and safety that she needed to feel at that time, and third, I want to make sure that accountability takes place and that people who are responsible do not ever allow this to happen again to any athlete.”
Rachel’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin initially tweeted about the incident Friday, saying that Rachel was called a racial slur every time she served, and was threatened as well.
“She 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,” she tweeted. “You allowed this racist behavior to continue without intervening. Apologizing to her parents after the fact is not enough.”
Marvin says the fan was not removed nor was the match stopped and more needs to be done to prevent situations like this from happening.
“You stop it right then and call it for what it is and let it be known you do not condone this behavior and it will not be accepted,” he said. “You can say in advance, these kinds of things are not acceptable. If they happen in our venues, you will be removed and you won’t be able to attend any sporting activities in this venue again.”
BYU athletics posted in a statement that a fan was identified and has been banned from events. They said that the although the fan was in the student section, they were not a student.
“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,” said the statement.
Duke had its Saturday match moved from BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse Arena to a local high school.
At that match, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed the crowd and said he spoke with Rachel and her coach.
“I am the athletic director and I am accountable for what happens in all of our athletic events and with that in mind, the process to get better and to heal has already begun,” he said.
Marvin says Holmoe was remorseful in his conversation with Rachel and he appreciates the statements made by the school, but he hopes strong actions are taken to prevent any incidents like this in the future.
“I appreciate the words but the actions are really what determine keeping them accountable for what happened. Accountability starts with results, so you do what you say and you let that speak for itself,” he said.
Heather Olmstead, the BYU Women’s volleyball coach released a statement Sunday saying,
” apologize for what the Duke student-athletes experienced during our match Friday. We must do better. I have been able to have productive conversations with who were impacted the most Friday night, Rachel Richardson, the Duke Volleyball Team captain and the Duke volleyball head coach.”
Rachel, ending her statement, wrote, “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. 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.”