The world of women’s collegiate volleyball is embroiled in a Utah scandal as the only Black player on Duke University’s team was a victim of racial terrorism while playing a match at Brigham Young University. The incident was brought to light by the player’s godmother, an attorney from Fort Worth, Texas.
Rachel Richardson, a sophomore outside hitter from Ellicott City, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, played for the Blue Devils on Friday to a sold-out crowd of 5,507. However, not everyone was happy to see Richardson on the court, and someone took the time to disrespect her. That person subsequently was banned from attending games.
Her godmother Lesa Pamplin, a judge in Fort Worth, Texas, shed further light on the incident with a tweet.
My Goddaughter is the only black starter for Dukes volleyball team. While playing yesterday, she was called a nigger every time she served. She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench. pic.twitter.com/rmGpXTYfua
— Lesa Pamplin for County Criminal Court #5 (@LesaPamplin) August 27, 2022
“My Goddaughter is the only black starter for Dukes volleyball team. While playing yesterday, she was called a n— every time she served. She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench.”
Guess the heckler in Utah never saw the judge coming. It sent reverberations through BYU, and the university issued statements about the incident.
Official statement from BYU Athletics. pic.twitter.com/5bIwXNwr7J
— BYU Cougars (@BYUCougars) August 27, 2022
“All of God’s children deserve love and respect, and BYU Athletics is completely committed to leading out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice of any kind and rooting out racism,” a BYU Athletic Department statement read on Saturday afternoon. “When a student-athlete or a fan comes to a BYU sporting event, we expect that they will be treated with love and respect and feel safe on our campus. It is for this reason BYU has banned a fan who was identified by Duke during last night’s volleyball match from all BYU athletic venues. Although this fan was sitting in BYU’s student section, this person is not a BYU student.
“To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a smaller number of fans in last night’s volleyball match in the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not strong enough language,” the statement continued. “We will not tolerate behavior of this kind. Specifically, the use of a racial slur at any of our athletic events is absolutely unacceptable and BYU Athletics holds a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior. We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its student-athletes competing last night for what they experienced. We want BYU athletic events to provide a safe environment for all, and there is no place for behaviors like this in our venues.”
Duke also issued a statement after their defeat by BYU.
“First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes,” said Duke Vice President & Director of Athletics Nina King. “They should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment which promotes equality and fair play. Following extremely unfortunate circumstances at Friday night’s match at BYU, we are compelled to shift today’s match against Rider to a different location to afford both teams the safest atmosphere for competition. We are appreciative of the support from BYU’s athletic administration as we navigate this troubling situation. I have been in touch with the student-athletes who have been deeply impacted, will continue to support them in every way possible and look forward to connecting further upon their return from Provo.”
— Rider Volleyball (@RiderBroncsVB) August 27, 2022
BYU did not specify the length of time for the ban, and the team they played the next day, Rider University, moved the game to an undisclosed location in Provo, Utah. Members of the Rider volleyball team wrote “#3” on their wrists in support of Richardson.