Live feed: Statements, reactions about racial incident at Duke-BYU volleyball match

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson released a statement Sunday via Twitter.
Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson released a statement Sunday via Twitter.

Duke volleyball sophomore Rachel Richardson reported that she was the target of a racist incident in an Aug. 26 match against Brigham Young University in which a non-student BYU fan sitting in the student section directed racial slurs at her. The fan had been banned from all BYU sporting events before BYU lifted the ban Sept. 9.

The incident first came to light after Richardson's godmother, Lesa Pamplin of Fort Worth, Texas, tweeted Saturday about racial slurs and said that no adults intervened.

Since then, statements have poured in from both BYU and Duke officials, as well as Richardson, which are included below. 

Here’s how the events since the weekend developed.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Friday, Sept. 9

Lesa Pamplin, Richardson's godmother who first tweeted about incident, issues statement to Salt Lake Tribune

"BYU's statement today does not change my position," Pamplin told the Salt Lake Tribune. "In fact, the statement and the ‘findings’ are in keeping with what I — and many others — anticipated. Daily across America, the burden of proof — in instances like these involving people of color, as well as marginalized people, economically disadvantaged people, and disempowered people — is shifted unfairly and without hesitation."

“It is an unfortunate, but tried and true, mechanism used to discredit others while simultaneously deflecting from us getting down to the business of dealing with the legacies of our past so that we can all move authentically and holistically forward as a nation.”

Duke athletic director Nina King releases statement

Following BYU Athletics' Sept. 9 statement, Duke athletic director Nina King released the following:

"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. 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." #HateWontLiveHere

BYU releases statement detailing completed investigation, unbans fan

BYU has completed its investigation and said it has "not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event,” according to a Friday, Sept. 9 statement from BYU Athletics. It has also lifted the ban on the fan who was initially identified by Duke as having said racial slurs. 

BYU has reviewed all available video and audio recordings, security footage and raw footage from BYUtv. It reached out to over 50 individuals who attended the event, including both Duke and BYU athletic department personnel and student-athletes, event security and fans, according to the statement. 

“There will be some who assume we are being selective in our 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 statement read.

* * *

Friday, Sept. 2

Duke volleyball, football wear "Hate Won't Live Here" gear in home openers

Both Duke volleyball and football played their first games at home this season Friday, with volleyball defeating East Tennessee State 3-1 in its first of three weekend games and football beating Temple 30-0 later in the day. 

In warm-ups, Duke's volleyball team wore T-shirts reading "Hate Won't Live Here" in front of a large crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium that included extra security and athletic director Nina King. Before the game, the stadium observed a moment of silence as the Duke team kneeled and locked arms with one another.

The football team's helmets Friday sported stickers reading "HWLH."

"It's been quite a week for this group," head coach Jolene Nagel said after the game Friday. "And to see them be able to come out there today and get pushed a little bit and still have some composure, to turn things around when things weren't really going our way I thought was great for us to prove to ourselves that we can do that."

"We wanted to turn this into a positive thing, keep moving forward from this experience," senior captain Gracie Johnson said of the "Hate Won't Live Here" shirts.

* * *

Thursday, Sept. 1

BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe releases statement in Deseret News 

11:47 p.m.: Holmoe published a statement in Deseret News Thursday night, which comes after earlier statements. He first made clear BYU’s stance on racism, writing that it “is disgusting and unacceptable.” 

He also responded to claims that BYU and Duke did not do enough to stop the situation, writing, “the narrative that our coaching staff didn’t take immediate action is unsubstantiated and unfair.” 

“When the complaint first surfaced, BYU head coach Heather Olmstead immediately took action. Four staff and a uniformed police officer were placed in the student section. They were later joined by an athletic administrator from Duke,” Holmoe wrote. 

“The crowd was large and boisterous but there were no observations of racist behavior,” he added. When Duke identified a fan as having yelled racist remarks, BYU escorted him out of the arena and banned him from “future athletic events pending review." 

“BYU has continued to carefully review all event audio and video in search of any racist statements or behavior,” he wrote. 

He wrote that “another false narrative is that coach Olmstead refused to meet with Rachel and me on Saturday morning.” In his conversations with Duke head coach Jolene Nagel about the meeting, Olmstead was not asked by Duke or Rachel to attend the meeting, Holmoe wrote. 

“Regardless of whether we were able to identify racist statements during the event, my first concern remained for the student athlete who felt unsafe in our venue ... I stand with Rachel, with our entire BYU community, and any others in rejecting racism,” he wrote. 

He mentioned that he was grateful for Richardson’s remarks to ESPN, which included that she "felt heard and felt seen during that conversation [with Holmoe]."

Holmoe added that he met with BYU coaches and athletic staff this week and they “are united in taking any necessary steps when our athletic venues don’t live up to these ideals, including stopping play when necessary.” 

* * *

Wednesday, Aug. 31

Banned fan not found to have directed racial slurs at Duke-BYU volleyball match, BYU police say

Brigham Young University police say that the fan who was banned after Friday’s volleyball match against Duke does not appear to have said a racial slur, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

BYU began investigating Friday after the match, including reviewing video from BYUtv and cameras in the facility, according to the Tribune. The investigation is still ongoing. 

BYU Police Lt. George Besendorfer told the Tribune that an initial review of surveillance footage from the game revealed that the banned individual did not shout anything while Richardson served.

“The person who was banned was the person identified by Duke as using racial slurs. However, we have been unable to find any evidence of that person using slurs in the match,” BYU associate athletic director for communications and media strategy Jon McBride told the Tribune. 

United Black Athletes meet with Duke athletic director, request changes to hate speech policy

11:39 a.m.: UBA President senior Elasia Campbell met with Duke athletic director Nina King Tuesday to discuss the incident and propose two policy changes on behalf of the group, per a Wednesday Instagram post. 

One proposed policy would pause any sporting event in the event of racial slurs or hate speech until the individual who said them is removed from the area.

The other would edit Duke Athletics’ current hate speech policy to include “consequences for these individuals, or the athletic department takes sanctions more seriously with individuals that don’t uphold the policy.” 

* * *

Tuesday, Aug. 30

Richardson speaks in video interview with ESPN

1:44 p.m.: After returning to campus, Richardson spoke with ESPN's Holly Rowe in a video interview spanning nearly seven minutes. In the interview, Richardson recounted Friday's events and spoke highly of BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe, calling him "one of the most genuine people that I've ever met." Richardson said that Holmoe came to her hotel to speak with her Saturday.

"I very much so felt heard and felt seen during [Saturday's] conversation," Richardson said. "I could feel and I could see how sorry he was and honestly shocked that it happened."

* * *

Sunday, Aug. 28

Duke volleyball condemns "racism, bigotry or hatred" and Friday's "horrific circumstance"

9:35 p.m.: Sunday night, Duke's volleyball program issued a statement condemning the "targeted racism this past weekend" and noted that Duke took "immediate action" Friday night.

"Our utmost priority always has been and will continue to be the safety and well-being of our student-athletes," the statement read. "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."

Duke United Black Athletes “disappointed in the lack of immediate action from both institutions”

The group posted a statement on Instagram Sunday night, acknowledging "the role that both Duke and BYU played in allowing this to take place."

"While we understand universities cannot control fans, we are disappointed in the lack of immediate action from both institutions."

The group also said their next step is to help athletic departments, at Duke and beyond, create policies that "offer better guidance and solutions for how to prevent situations like this."

BYU athletic director tweets in support of BYU head coach

6:15 p.m.: BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe tweeted in support of Olmstead. Following reports that Olmstead did not show up to a Saturday-morning meeting with Richardson and Holmoe, he clarified that he "was the one who made the decision to represent BYU at the meeting with Rachel."

Holmoe also condemned the public response to Olmstead, denouncing threats to her safety as "completely unacceptable and [exacerbating] what is already a difficult situation."

BYU head coach apologizes for Friday's events

3:41 p.m.: Olmstead released a statement via BYU's team social media Sunday afternoon, apologizing for Friday's events. She also noted that she had "productive conversations" with Richardson and Nagel and stated that "racism has no place at BYU."

ACC commissioner "denounces all forms of racism"

1:18 p.m.: ACC commissioner Jim Phillips released a statement Sunday afternoon on behalf of the conference. Phillips wrote that he had been in touch with officials from both Duke and BYU, and that he is "confident that [BYU officials] are taking the appropriate measures to address our concerns." 

Duke President Vincent Price "outraged" by incident

Price’s statement Sunday afternoon noted that he will be working with Duke head coach Jolene Nagel and her team to “provide any assistance and resources they may need.”  

He commended Duke's players, coaches and staff’s leadership, and reiterated Duke’s commitment to providing a safe, inclusive environment. 

Richardson details experience in statement, writes officials, BYU coaching staff did not stop behavior during game

12:47 p.m.: In a statement posted to Twitter, Richardson wrote that "my fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled." 

She added that officials and BYU coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game, and again immediately following the game, but in both situations they "failed to adequately address the situation."

Richardson wrote that she does not believe the incident is a reflection of BYU’s athletes' beliefs and commended BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe for being "quick to act in a very respectful and genuine [manner]." Holmoe is ensuring staff and players have education and training to “handle and prevent the racist, ignorant, and asinine behaviors that were exhibited by their fans during the match,” according to Richardson. 

Richardson expressed gratitude to Duke Athletics, her teammates and coaches for their responses in Friday's match.

In the final paragraph of her statement, Richardson acknowledged that "some people would have liked more to happen in the moment."

"Although the heckling eventually took a mental toll on me, I refused to allow it to stop me from doing what I love to do and what I came to BYU to do; which was to play volleyball. I refused to allow those racist bigots to feel any degree of satisfaction from thinking that their comments had ‘gotten to me.’ So I pushed through and finished the game.

"Therefore, on behalf of my African American teammates and I, we do not want to receive pity or to be looked at as helpless. We do not feel as though we are victims of some tragic unavoidable event. We are proud to be young African American women; we are proud to be Duke student athletes, and we are proud to stand up against racism."

* * *

Saturday, Aug. 27

BYU athletic director addresses Smith Fieldhouse crowd ahead of BYU's Saturday match

9:00 p.m.: Prior to Saturday's match between BYU and Washington State, Holmoe addressed the crowd at Smith Fieldhouse, where the student section was moved to the upper deck and away from the floor. In his remarks, Holmoe confirmed that he "visited with the young athlete on Duke's team and her coach" earlier Saturday.

"At last night’s game, there was some egregious and hurtful slurs that were directed at members of the Duke University women’s volleyball team. … As children of God, we are responsible, it’s our mission to love one another and treat everybody with respect, and that didn’t happen," Holmoe said. "We fell very short. We didn’t live up to our best. I ask that everyone at all of our games that represent BYU, that you will have the courage to take a stand and be able to take care of each other, and more importantly, the guests—our guests, who we invite to come and play here."

"Many adults failed my goddaughter," Lesa Pamplin, Richardson's godmother, writes in statement to The Chronicle

8:14 p.m.: Pamplin emphasized the importance of the incident on a national stage and called on coaches to "stand up for [our children] and keep them safe."

Her full statement read: "For far too long, individuals have been subjected to racist slurs, taunts, and threats like the unfortunate incident that happened to my goddaughter, Rachel Richardson, at BYU. It is unfortunate that this incident has only received attention after I tweeted about it. Every American should be enraged that a young lady was subjected to hateful, demeaning language, and we should be even more outraged that it took a tweet from me in Tarrant County, Texas to bring this incident to light.

"We must, as a country, do better. We must demand that the coaches to whom we entrust our children stand up for them and keep them safe. Many adults failed my goddaughter. It is our duty – each of us – to use our voices in the spaces we occupy to protect and advocate for each other.

"On behalf of my goddaughter, Rachel, and her parents, thank you for the outpouring of support."

Utah governor sounds off on Twitter

6:49 p.m.: Utah Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted Saturday that he was “disgusted” by news of the behavior at the game and “deeply saddened if others didn’t step up to stop it.” 

Duke Athletics relocates Saturday match against Rider to “afford both teams the safest atmosphere” 

4:43 p.m.: Duke athletic director Nina King addressed the incident in a statement and noted that she had been in touch with the student-athletes.

""First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes," the statement read. "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."

BYU Athletics bans non-student fan sitting in student section, apologizes for incident

3:56 p.m.: In an official statement posted to Twitter, BYU Athletics announced they banned the non-student fan, who was "identified by Duke" and was sitting in the school's student section, from all BYU athletic venues for their actions at Friday's game. The duration of the ban was not specified. 

Pamplin tweets that racial slurs were directed at Richardson in Friday's match

Pamplin posted on Twitter that Richardson, her goddaughter and the only Black starter for Duke's volleyball team, was called a racial slur "every time she served." She included a photo of her and Richardson.

"She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus," Pamplin wrote in the tweet. "A police officer had to be put by their bench."

In a reply, Pamplin also tweeted that “not one freaking adult did anything to protect [Richardson].” She said BYU "allowed this racist behavior to continue without intervening."

Pamplin's campaign Twitter account has since been made private.

* * *

Duke coaches and athletes also took to social media over the weekend in support of Richardson and Duke volleyball.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Milla Surjadi profile
Milla Surjadi | Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator

Milla Surjadi is a Trinity junior and a diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator of The Chronicle's 119th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 118.


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