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Duke Volleyball Player Speaks On Racial Slurs Received During BYU Game

Aug 28, 2022, 2:19 PM | Updated: Aug 29, 2022, 10:51 am
Duke, Volleyball, Rachel Richardson...
Duke Volleyball player Rachel Richardson opened up for first time after being on receiving end of racial slurs during game at BYU. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – Duke Volleyball player Rachel Richardson, who was on the receiving end of racial slurs during an August 26 game at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse, has opened up on what happened.

On Sunday, Richardson shared her story on social media. One day after, the slurs were brought to public light by Richardson’s godmother.

Brigham Young University has banned the fan from future athletic events. The length of time the individual, who wasn’t a BYU student, was banned has not been specified. BYU Athletics has issued multiple statements on the incident.

BYU coach Heather Olmstead had “productive conversations” with Richardson

Heather Olmstead, women’s volleyball coach at BYU, also issued a statement on Sunday.

“Racism in any form has no place at BYU, or anywhere else. I apologize for what the Duke student-athletes experienced during our match on Friday. 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. They have helped me understand areas where we can do better. I thank them for taking the time to speak with me. I want the very best for them and the entire Duke team.”

This is the first time Richardson has shared her side of the story. Here’s a transcript of what she shared on social media.

Duke Volleyball player Rachel Richardson opens up on racial slurs during BYU game

“Hello my name is Rachel Richardson, I’m a sophomore on the Duke University Women’s volleyball team. Friday night in our match against Brigham Young University my fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match. The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe. 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. As a result, my teammates and I had to struggle just to get through the rest of the game, instead of just being able to focus on our playing so that we could compete at the highest level possible. They also failed to adequately address the situation immediately following the game when it was brought to their attention again. No athlete, regardless of their race should ever be subject to such hostile conditions. God has called each of us to be members of one body, while we may have our differences they should never divide us (Romans 12:4-5).

“That said, I do not believe this in anyway a reflection of what the BYU athletes stand for. The girls on the team played a great game and showed nothing but respect and good sportsmanship on and off the court. Once notified, the BYU athletic director, Tom Holmoe, was quick to act in a very respectful and genuine manor. He is at the forefront of ensuring that the BYU athletic staff and players undergo education and training to better handle and prevent the racist, ignorant, and asinine behaviors that were exhibited by their fans during the match.

“It is neither my nor Duke Volleyball’s goal to call BYU’s athletics out but rather to call them up. This is not the first time this has happened in college athletics and sadly it likely will not be the last time. However, each time it happens we as student athletes, coaches, fans, and administrators have a chance to educate those who act in hateful ways. 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. It is not enough to indicate that you are not racist, instead you must demonstrate that you are anti-racist.

“My team and I were fortunate enough to go through ‘A Long Talk,’ which is an educational series on the roots of racism and how to be an activist in not just dealing with racism, but preventing and ending it. This helped to equip us to deal with the situation in a mature manner rather than to react in a retaliatory manner.

“I want to express my gratitude to the Duke Athletics Administration for being quick to act on my teams’ behalf. Additionally, I’d like to thank my coaching staff and teammates for immediately dealing with the situation to the best of their ability the minute they were made aware of it. Further, I would like to thank anyone who has reached out to make me aware that you stand with us.

“Finally I understand some people would have liked more to happen in the moment, such as an immediate protest and refusal to play on. 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.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Duke Volleyball Player Speaks On Racial Slurs Received During BYU Game