Friday, June 9, 2023

Duke volleyball player who was called racial slurs by BYU fans during match says school mishandled incident

Rachel Richardson, a Duke volleyball starter who was subjected to racial slurs being yelled at her during a match at BYU on Friday, does not think officials and the BYU coaching staff acted quickly enough to stop the heckling.

The sophomore said she and her other African American teammates were heckled by some fans through the entire match and had to play through it despite feeling uncomfortable. Richardson even called her father crying after the incident. 

“The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe,” Richardson wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Both the officials and BYU coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game, but failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment.”

BYU released an official statement on the matter Saturday and also banned one fan from all athletic venues on campus. The fan was not a student at BYU, but was sitting in the student section on the day of the match. 

“We will not tolerate behavior of this kind,” the school said. “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.”

BYU athletic director Tom Holme had a meeting with Richardson on Saturday morning, but even after the BYU statement and the meeting, Richardson felt it was important to share her thoughts publicly. 

In her statement, Richardson said this was not the first time this has happened in college athletics, but that she sees this as a chance to educate people. 

“This is an opportunity to dig deep into closed cultures which tolerate amoral racist acts, such as those exhibited Friday night, and change them for the better, Richardson wrote. “It is not enough to indicate that you are not racist, instead you must demonstrate that you are anti-racist.”

The volleyball team released an apology statement from head coach Heather Olmstead on Sunday, a few hours after Richardson posted on social media. According to Holmoe, Olmstead has been receiving personal attacks and death threats.

“We must do better. I have been able to have productive conversations with the student-athlete who was impacted the most Friday night, Rachel Richardson, the Duke volleyball team captain and the Duke volleyball head coach,” Olmstead’s statement read. “They have helped me understand areas where we can do better. I thank them for taking the time to speak with me.”

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