'Afraid, threatened': Duke volleyball player's dad speaks after daughter faces racial slurs, threats

Akilah Davis Image
Monday, August 29, 2022
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Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson's father says staff didn't do enough when his daughter faced racial slurs, and threats at BYU.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Duke University women's volleyball player is making national headlines after she was called racial slurs at a Brigham Young game Friday night. Rachel Richardson, 19, is a sophomore student who is majoring in neuroscience at Duke University. Her father, Marvin Richardson, spoke with ABC11 and said he is not happy with how the situation was handled.

"Whoever is the adult in charge should have intervened at that time," said Marvin Richardson.

Thousands of fans packed George Albert Smith Fieldhouse in Utah Friday night for a women's volleyball game as the BYU cougars took on the Duke Blue Devils. A video that's circulating online shows Rachel Richardson, who is an outside hitter, visibly upset.

"The heckling was beyond heckling. You love a raucous crowd," said Richardson. "She indicated they were using the n-word. She felt not only afraid, but threatened."

Richardson spoke with ABC11 from his home in Maryland. He said his daughter called him in tears once the game ended. She told him the coaching staff was made aware of the incident, but the game continued. A police officer was sent to stand next to the area the fans were yelling.

"You stop that behavior immediately. I've seen coaches grab the microphone and say knock it off and if they don't knock it off, get out. If you don't get out, we'll get you out. That's the right thing to do at a sporting venue," he said. "That did not happen."

BYU released the following statement.

All of God's children deserve love and respect, and BYU Athletics is completely committed to leading out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice of any kind and rooting out racism. When a student-athlete or a fan comes to a BYU sporting event, we expect that they will be treated with love and respect and feel safe on our campus. It is for this reason BYU has banned a fan who was identified by Duke during Friday night's volleyball match from all BYU athletic venues. Although this fan was sitting in BYU's student section, this person is not a BYU student.To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a small number of fans in last night's volleyball match in the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke 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 and BYU Athletics holds a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior. We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its student-athletes 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.

Richardson's father said BYU's statement isn't accurate.

"That wasn't the full story. It's not just one person during that time that was doing this," he said.

Duke University responded with the following statement:

"Duke Volleyball experienced targeted racism this past weekend during our match at the Smith Fieldhouse on the campus of BYU.

Our utmost priority always has been and will continue to be the safety and well-being of our student-athletes. On Friday night, immediate action was taken by our student-athletes and staff to address the horrific circumstance which included racial slurs and threats, and additional protocols were followed via conversations following the match.

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.

All 18 members of our team -- our four Black student-athletes, in particular -- have shown tremendous comradery and leadership and are to be commended for their perseverance.

We will continue to empower our student-athletes to use their voices in the fight against all types of injustice. From the beginning, our team has been adamant that hate will not win, nor prevent them from playing a game they love with the people they love.

Lastly, we are grateful for the support of Duke Athletics and Duke University as we move forward."

#GoDuke

Richardson will travel to Duke University Friday and meet with athletic department staffers. He said his daughter didn't feel like she could have responded in the moment because she felt it would have made the situation worse.

" She felt like under those circumstances that she had to endure it. That's the first thing. She shouldn't have felt that way. She did because she knew in order for her to compete she had to push through," he said.