ESPN Blasts BYU Over Response To Racial Slurs During Duke Match

Aug 29, 2022, 12:40 PM


ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith during Game Three of the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum on July 11, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Multiple ESPN employees called out Brigham Young University for the school’s response to racial slurs directed at a Duke women’s volleyball player during a match between the Cougars and Blue Devils.

Racial Slurs During Duke vs. BYU Volleyball Match

BYU hosted Rachel Richardson and the Duke women’s volleyball team for a match at  George Albert Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah on Friday, August 26.

In a social media post shared from August 28, Richardson said that during the contest, “my fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match” by an individual sitting in BYU’s student section. The Blue Devil added that “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” and that the “slurs and comments grew into threats which caused” the Duke players to feel unsafe.

Following the match, BYU Athletics issued multiple statements concerning the situation and announced that the individual who shared the racist remarks had been banned from the school’s sporting events. Cougar head coach Heather Olmstead shared her feelings about the incident and BYU’s response as well.

“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,” Olmstead said. “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.”

In addition to those statements, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed the crowd at BYU’s match on Saturday, August 27, and shared additional comments on Olmstead.

ESPN Personalities Criticize BYU Over Response

Following the weekend, multiple ESPN hosts and analysts addressed the racism and BYU’s response following the slurs.

During ESPN’s television show, First Take, former NFL players, Marcus Spears and Michale Irvin, called out BYU for a slow reaction to the racist comments by the now-banned individual.

“We didn’t do anything in real time to stop to rectify that situation,” Spears said. “Whoever that man was, he knew damn well what he was doing was wrong and hopefully sitting in the student section, the students around him knew what he was doing was wrong and shouldn’t have been making statements like that. I will have respect for BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe coming out and making his statements, but I needed him to call what it was. I didn’t need him to call it slurs. I needed him to call it racism.”

“And this is why BYU cannot be let off the hook,” Irvin began his comments. “In a gym, everybody hears what is being said. If you’re back there serving and they’re yelling racial slurs everybody in that gym should’ve heard something and they should have stopped the game and did something immediately. We come out with all of these things that we say afterwards, but we let that transpire. When we read and say ‘every time she served’ after the first time she served, that should have been stopped, right there. They should have gotten that guy out and got him outta there… if you let that go on, it’s going to represent all of you.”

Stephen A. Smith shared his feelings on the situation and said BYU failed to act in a timely manner. “I’m saying, ‘BYU, you did it, by allowing this to happen and not addressing it expeditiously, not addressing it with the level of quickness and speed that you should have addressed it with,'” Smith said. “So now instead of looking at that fool, that racist bastard, that was spewing that nonsense towards Ms. Rachel Richardson, instead of looking at that person, now we’re looking at the university all because of a dereliction of duty that you put forth because you (BYU) couldn’t find it in yourself to address it immediately. Now we ask the question, ‘Why? What took you so long? What were the hesitancies about? Were you fearful of a reprimand? Were you fearful of a backlash if you had decided as a human being to do the right thing and protect this young lady and to make sure she wasn’t subjected to this for a longer period of time? What was going on? What was the hesitancy about?’ And since we’re talking about BYU, now we’re looking at every university.”

Former Duke men’s basketball player and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas shared a statement on Twitter regarding BYU’s response. “The reprehensible and morally contemptible racial slurs and threats aimed at Rachel Richardson and her Duke Volleyball teammates last Friday at BYU were beyond unacceptable,” Bilas tweeted.

“”Duke Volleyball experienced targeted racism this past weekend during our match at the Smith Fieldhouse on the campus of BYU.” Duke Athletics said in a statement. “Our utmost priority always has been and will continue to be the safety and well-being of our student-athletes. 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. We stand against any form of racism, bigotry or hatred. As a program we have worked extensively to create an inclusive and safe environment where our student-athletes feel heard and supported but are not naive to the fact that there is always work to be done.”

After losing 3-1 to the Cougars on Friday night, the Blue Devils were slated to play again at Smith Fieldhouse vs. Rider on Saturday. Duke moved the match to another location in Provo and defeated Rider, 3-1.

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ESPN Blasts BYU Over Response To Racial Slurs During Duke Match