Brigham Young University police say that the fan who was banned after the Aug. 26 volleyball match against Duke does not appear to have said a racial slur, according to the Salt Lake Tribune on Aug. 30.
Sophomore Rachel Richardson, the only Black starter on Duke’s volleyball team, reported that she was the target of a racist incident in which a non-student fan seated in BYU’s student section repeatedly directed racial slurs at her. BYU announced Aug. 27 that the fan, which Duke identified, had been banned from future sporting events.
BYU began investigating Friday after the match, including reviewing video from BYUtv and cameras in the facility, according to the Tribune. 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.
BYU has completed its investigation and said they “have 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. They have also lifted the ban on the fan who was initially identified by Duke as having said racial slurs.
They reviewed all available video and audio recordings, security footage and raw footage from BYUtv. They 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.
Following BYU Athletic's 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"
“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.
The fan is identified in a police report, obtained by the Tribune, as a Utah Valley University student. He denied saying any slurs and said he mistakenly approached a Duke player thinking she was a BYU player and a friend, according to the Tribune.
An officer reviewing the footage wrote in the report that the UVU student was not present during the match’s second set when Richardson was serving, according to The Tribune. The officer wrote that the fan was on his phone when she served again later.
According to the report, a police officer was stationed near the Duke bench before the fourth set. The officer said in his report that he did not hear any slurs while standing there, just BYU fans calling out players’ names, according to the Tribune.
Richardson’s Aug. 28 statement described being “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match."
"The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe," Richardson wrote. "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."
Editor's Note: This story was updated on Friday, Sept. 9 to reflect that the investigation is complete and include statements from BYU Athletics and Duke athletic director Nina King.
Jonathan Levitan contributed reporting.
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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.