The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team has cancelled its scheduled home-and-home series with BYU for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons, the program announced Friday. The decision is in response to Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson saying she heard racial slurs directed toward her and other Black players from the BYU student section at a recent match.
The Gamecocks were set to open their season vs. BYU on Nov. 7. South Carolina is now working on finalizing another opponent for the game at Colonial Life Arena.
“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” said Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley in a statement. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”
On Aug. 26, Duke’s volleyball team was playing at BYU when, according to Richardson, she and other teammates “were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match.” The student athlete said she immediately let officials and BYU coaching staff know what was going on because she felt uncomfortable.
“The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe,” she wrote on Twitter two days after the match.
BYU released an official statement on the incident that same day, apologizing and saying that racial slurs are unacceptable and will not be tolerated at any of their athletic events. BYU also banned a fan who Duke identified as the man who shouted the racial slurs. The police later identified the man in question as a Utah Valley University student — not a BYU student.
However, the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Aug. 30 that the man might not be the person who yelled racial slurs because there was no video evidence found, and he was not in the student section when Richardson said the incident began. Richardson also said that someone approached her after the match and told her to “watch her back.”
Per reports, the man who was banned did say he approached Richardson, but he told the police that it was because he confused her with one of his friends. Based on the Salt Lake Tribune report, the investigation is still ongoing as BYU continues to look for a culprit.
Friday was not the first time Staley commented publicly on Richardson’s incident. The 2022 Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year replied to the Duke sophomore on Twitter on Aug. 28.
Staley discussed the situation with South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner, who trusted her judgment and gave the coach his full support in her decision to change the home opener game.
“Dawn and I have discussed her thoughts on the situation,” Tanner said in a statement. “I support Dawn and all of our coaches in their right to schedule games and opponents that are best for their teams.”
South Carolina’s first match on the calendar will be an exhibition game against Benedict College on Oct. 31 in Columbia, S.C.