BYU investigation finds no racial slurs against Duke volleyball player

WTVD-AP
Friday, September 9, 2022
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Brigham Young University reports an investigation found no evidence of racial slurs or racial heckling against Rachel Richardson, a sophomore at Duke.

PROVO, Utah -- An investigation by Brigham Young University into allegations that a fan engaged in racial heckling and uttered racial slurs at a Duke volleyball player last month found no evidence to support the claim.

BYU issued the results of its investigation into the Aug. 26 match on Friday, reiterating it will not tolerate conduct threatening any student-athlete.

The school said it reached out to more than 50 people who attended the event, including athletic department personnel and student-athletes from both schools, event security and management and fans who were in the arena. It also reviewed audio and video recordings and raw footage from the match.

The university said it has lifted a ban on a fan who was identified as allegedly directing racial slurs toward Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson during the match. It also apologized to the fan for any hardship the ban caused.

"From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event," BYU said in a statement. "As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation.

"As a result of our investigation, we have lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match. We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity. BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused."

Lesa Pamplin, the godmother of Richardson first drew attention to the incident on social media and later tweeted a statement, saying in part, that "we must, as a country, do better."

Pamplin, who is running for political office in Tarrant County, Texas, has since locked her Twitter account.

Duke athletic director Nina King issued a statement standing by Richardson and the rest of her team.

"The 18 members of the Duke University volleyball team are exceptionally strong women who represent themselves, their families, and Duke University with the utmost integrity," she said Friday after BYU issued its statement. "We unequivocally stand with and champion them, especially when their character is called into question. Duke Athletics believes in respect, equality and inclusiveness, and we do not tolerate hate and bias."

In the aftermath of the Aug. 26 match, South Carolina women's basketball program canceled a home-and-home series with BYU. Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said she did not want to put her players in the situation that she said Richardson had experienced.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

The Associated Press left a message Friday seeking comment from Staley.

Despite finding the claim was unfounded, BYU said it remains committed to rooting out racism wherever it is found. The school also said it understands some will criticize its investigation as being selective in its review.

"To the contrary, we have tried to be as thorough as possible in our investigation, and we renew our invitation for anyone with evidence contrary to our findings to come forward and share it," the school said. "Despite being unable to find supporting evidence of racial slurs in the many recordings and interviews, we hope that all those involved will understand our sincere efforts to ensure that all student-athletes competing at BYU feel safe."

ESPN contributed to this report.