PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – A Brigham Young University fan has been banned for repeatedly calling a Duke player the N-word and threatening her during Friday night’s women’s volleyball game at Smith Fieldhouse.
BYU released a statement on Saturday saying, “To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a small number of fans in last night’s volleyball match…is not strong enough language. We will not tolerate behavior of this kind. Specifically, the use of a racial slur at any of our athletic events is absolutely unacceptable. We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its student athletes.”
The statement went on to say that although the fan was sitting in the BYU student section, he was not a student.
Lesa Pamplin of Fort Worth, Texas, originally tweeted about the incident, saying her goddaughter, Rachel Richardson, the only black starter on the Duke team, was called the N-Word every time she served, and was threatened by the fan as well.
“She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus,” Pamplin tweeted. “A police officer had to be put by their bench. You allowed this racist behavior to continue without intervening. Apologizing to her parents after the fact is not enough. She will soon be sharing her story.”
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told USA TODAY Sports that he spoke with Richardson and Duke volleyball coach Jolene Nagel and the decision was made to move Saturday’s match against Rider to an alternate site in Provo.
Both said they were hurt and disappointed at the incident not being stopped and also expressed they had no issues with the BYU players.
Holmoe said the school is looking into the incident and says no further discipline is expected except for the fan that was banned and anyone else identified in making the slurs.
“My concern is for Rachel and her well-being, and the school has investigated up to this point,” Holmoe said. “The bottom line is that we are going to have to do more. We are going to have to be vigilant and continue to say that this is not to be tolerated in any way.”
Holmoe also addressed the crowd at Smith’s Fieldhouse before Saturday night’s match against Washington State.
Duke’s game Saturday against Rider was moved to Mountain View High School, and was played without any fans in attendance.
“First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes,” said Duke athletic director Nina King in a statement from the school. “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.
“We are appreciative of the support from BYU’s athletic administration as we navigate this troubling situation. I have been in touch with the student-athletes who have been deeply impacted, will continue to support them in every way possible and look forward to connecting further upon their return from Provo.”