Utah Athletics Releases More Information On Women’s Basketball Racial Incidents In Coeur d’Alene

Mar 26, 2024, 4:55 PM | Updated: 7:37 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Athletic Director Mark Harlan, Deputy Athletic Director Charmelle Green, and head coach Lynne Roberts gave a statement on the racial incidents the Utah Women’s Basketball team experienced while traveling for the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday.

In the statement, two separate encounters were described. The Women’s Basketball team had “racially disparaging words” shouted at them by cars on the road two different times.

“The University of Utah and members of our women’s basketball team, band and spirit teams, staff, administrators and supporters, continue to be deeply troubled and shaken by the hateful and disturbing actions and vitriol directed toward them in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, last Thursday evening. The incidents occurred shortly after the traveling party arrived in the area to participate in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament’s First and Second Rounds hosted by Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.

There were two separate disturbing encounters. First, as the travelling party was walking to a restaurant for dinner in the vicinity of their hotel, a vehicle drove by and occupants shouted racial epithets at the group. Second, on the walk back to the hotel, a vehicle slowly passed the group, revving its engine with its occupants again shouting racially disparaging words and threats. A police report was filed later Thursday evening with the City of Coeur d’Alene Police Department, and we will continue to work with the authorities in their investigation.”

The team’s initial hotel was in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, even though the tournament games were in Spokane, Washington.

Utah Athletics added later in the statement that they are “very disappointed” that they got assigned to a hotel over 30 minutes from where they would be playing.

“As we continue to heal, we remain very disappointed in the decision to assign our team to hotels such a great distance from the competition site, in another state. We will work with NCAA leadership to make it clear that being so far removed from the site was unacceptable and a contributing factor to the impact of this incident.”

The statement ended on a positive note as Utah Athletics expressed gratitude to Gonzaga University and Coeur d’Alene Mayor Jim Hammond for the statements they gave on the incident.

Coeur d’Alene Mayor Speaks On Racial Incident

On Tuesday morning, city officials held a news conference to offer apologies to the University of Utah women’s basketball team and provide updates on the investigation.

“On behalf of the city of Coeur d’Alene and all of its communities, I strongly condemn the appalling treatment of the female college athletes who were visiting,” Jim Hammond, mayor of Coeur d’Alene said.

Hammond said he reached out to the President’s Office at the University of Utah but has not heard back yet. He said he would like to speak with the staff and team.

“We express regret and true sorrow that your student-athletes were treated with such disdainful treatment,” he continued.  “To the young women who endured racial slurs while visiting, I offer my most sincere apology.”

Investigation Update From Coeur d’Alene Police Chief

Lee White, chief of Coeur d’Alene police, gave a small update on the investigation, though all details will not be reported because it is still considered an open case.

White told media members the crime was first reported on March 21. It was reported that a vehicle drove by the team while they were walking outside and racial slurs were yelled by the occupants.

Investigators are seeking video and witness reports of the incident and encourage anyone with information to contact the police.

Utah WBB NCAA Tournament Trip Dampened By “Racial Hate Crime”

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.

“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.”

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.”

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.

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Chandler Holt is a co-host for the Jazz Notes podcast and a Digital Sports Producer for KSLSports.com, specializing in all things basketball and football. Follow Chandler on Twitter @ChandlerHoltKSL or on Threads @chandlerho1t.

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Utah Athletics Releases More Information On Women’s Basketball Racial Incidents In Coeur d’Alene