Racist Incidents Dampen Utah Women’s Basketball’s Time In NCAA Tournament

Mar 26, 2024, 12:41 AM | Updated: 5:00 pm

SPOKANE, WA – Usually, the most upsetting part about exiting the NCAA Tournament is losing before you want to. That wasn’t the case for Utah women’s basketball.

Head coach Lynne Roberts revealed in her postgame press conference after the Utes lost to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament that her team experienced racism toward the beginning of their trip that forced them to move hotels.

RELATED: Utah Athletics Releases More Information On WBB Racial Incidents In Coeur d’Alene

“Our team hotel was in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which is not very close,” Roberts said. “It’s 35-40 minutes, so that was a little strange, but whatever. We had several instances of some kind of racial hate crimes towards our program and it was incredibly upsetting for all of us.”

Lynne Roberts On Utah Experiencing Racism: In Athletics And University Settings, It’s Shocking

Roberts detailed what her team experienced calling the incidents “shocking” in an athletic and academic setting.

“There is so much diversity on a college campus and so you just are not exposed to that very often,” Roberts said. “When you are- you have people say, ‘man, I can’t believe that happened,’ but racism is real, and it happens. It’s awful.”

MORE: Coeur d’Alene City Officials Express Regret, Sorrow After Utah WBB Experienced ‘Racial Hate Crimes’

The incidents, which took place Thursday night when the team first arrived for the NCAA Tournament, happened “a few times” before the team moved hotels on Friday, March 22, according to Roberts.

Roberts emphasized the incidents were so shocking, that no one knew what to do.

“For our players- whether they are white, black, green- whatever, no one knew how to handle it,” Roberts continued. “It was really upsetting for our players and staff to not feel safe in an NCAA Tournament environment. It’s messed up. We moved hotels.”

The NCAA and Gonzaga were on hand to help the Utes get out of a bad, and very uncomfortable situation according to Roberts. However, there is some question as to whether they should have been there in the first place.

Despite the quick effort to resolve the issue after it happened, it didn’t change what was an unfortunate distraction for a team trying to enjoy the postseason.

“The NCAA and Gonzaga worked to get us a new hotel and we appreciate that,” Roberts said. “That’s what happened, it was a distraction, and upsetting, and unfortunate. This should be a positive for everyone involved. This should be a joyous time for our program- to have a kind of black eye on the experience is unfortunate.”

This is a disappointing revelation from a team that has celebrated their differences for the past two seasons.

Gonzaga Issued A Statement On Racism Incident

The Gonzaga Athletics X account issued a statement on the incidents Utah women’s basketball dealt with shortly after Roberts’ press conference.

Gonzaga University has been made aware of the racially disparaging comments made to visiting student-athletes and travel party members in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in advance of the NCAA Women’s First and Second Round Basketball Tournament games these past several days. Hate speech in any form is repugnant, shameful, and must never be tolerated. We worked hard to secure the opportunity to serve as the host institution, and our first priority is and must be the safety and welfare of all student-athletes, coaches, families, and supporting staff. To this end, we have worked closely with the NCAA and program participants to support the security and safety of everyone involved. We are frustrated and deeply saddened to know that what should always be an amazing visitor and championship experience was in any way compromised by this situation, for it in no way reflects the values, standards, and beliefs to which we at Gonzaga University hold ourselves accountable.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Racist Incidents Dampen Utah Women’s Basketball’s Time In NCAA Tournament