The student body of Brigham Young University has looked racially suspect at recent sporting events, and the pattern seems to continue. Students attending Utah’s Mormon-centric university are now implicated in bringing racial controversy to a women’s soccer game.
While kneeling during the national anthem in 2021, five student-athlete soccer players from the visiting team have claimed BYU students called them a variety of racial slurs, including the N-word. The allegations are just being uncovered now.
“I just remember that there was like a consistent chant of, ‘Stand up, N-words,’ during the anthem and right after,” said one of the unnamed women’s players to The Guardian. She added that BYU staff did not appear shocked when they told them about the occurrence. However, it was not the first time that the team had experienced the infraction.
“Backlash for kneeling was not new for our group but to hear that in person was shocking. I think both the fans and coaching staff knew we wouldn’t cancel the game after the incident, which once again shows this could be part of a bigger cultural issue within BYU as an institution,” the unnamed student-athlete continued. “Nothing else was done to my knowledge.”
An additional four players sustained their teammate’s story and reiterated that they, too, heard the chants. Also, the crowd was reportedly reminded to act respectfully via an announcement during the match.
“We are not aware of any additional concerns being brought up during the game or any time thereafter,” BYU’s associate athletic director for communications and media strategy, Jon McBride, said to The Guardian. “As we have stated, BYU will not tolerate racism in any form.”
However, McBride did acknowledge that the crowd was reminded to be respectful of visiting teams. He denied awareness of any discriminatory remarks by the BYU student body. Popular opinion based on past incidents is not swinging favorably in the direction of BYU.
Last month, the only Black player on Duke University’s team claimed she was a victim of racial hostility while playing a match at BYU. The player’s godmother, an attorney from Fort Worth, Texas, brought the alleged incident to light.
Rachel Richardson, a sophomore outside hitter from Ellicott City, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, played for the Blue Devils in late August before a sold-out crowd of 5,507. However, not everyone was happy to see Richardson on the court, as someone disrespected her and was banned from attending games.
“The slurs comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe,” Richardson posted on Twitter a few days after the incident. “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. My teammates and I had to struggle to get through the rest of the game, instead of just being able to focus on our playing.”
Richardson felt that she and her Black teammates “were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match.”
However, after an “extensive review,” BYU officials said they could not find any evidence of there being racist behavior during the volleyball game with Duke.
“We reviewed all available video and audio recordings, including security footage and raw footage from all camera angles…We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event,” McBride said in a school statement earlier in September.
“We have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event. As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation.”
BYU looks like a hostile environment for Black players to compete against in Utah.
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