Duke University women’s volleyball match on Saturday was moved to an alternate location in Provo, Utah, after racial slurs were hurled at a black player from the crowd during Friday’s match with BYU, school officials said.
The incident prompted BYU to apologize and ban a fan identified as the perpetrator.
Lesa Pamplin, godmother of the black Duke player, wrote on Twitter that while playing her 19-year-old goddaughter, Rachel Richardson, had been subjected to racist slurs 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,” Pamplin tweeted. She confirmed the account in an interview with Reuters.
“Many adults failed my goddaughter,” Pamplin said in statement. “Every American should be enraged that a young lady was subjected to hateful, deameaning language.”
Duke Vice President and Director of Athletics Nina King said in a statement that the “extremely unfortunate circumstances” had compelled it to change the venue for Saturday’s game against Rider “to afford both teams the safest atmosphere for competition.” She said players should always be able to complete in an “inclusive, anti-racist environment.”
In a statement, BYU said it was completely committed to rooting out racism, and had banned a fan identified by Duke from all BYU Athletic venues.
In a subsequent email to Reuters, BYU said that after the game officials spent hours reviewing video of the event, and speaking with event management and security staff.
BYU said that when “last night’s behavior was initially reported by Duke, there was no individual pointed out and despite BYU security and event management’s efforts, they were not able to identify a perpetrator of racial slurs.”
After the game, BYU said, “an individual was identified by Duke who they believed were uttering the slurs and exhibiting problematic behaviors. That is the individual who has been banned.”
The school said the perpetrator was sitting in the BYU student section but was not a BYU student.
BYU said Duke players “felt unsafe and hurt, and we were unable to address that during the game in a manner that was sufficient. For that, we truly do apologize, and we are examining our processes and practices to do everything in our power to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
The incident drew condemnation on social media. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James tweeted in support of Richardson: “We have her back. This is not sports.”
Duke did not immediately respond to requests for additional comment about the incident. The BYU Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Duke won the game Saturday against Rider 3-1, its first win of the season. Richardson led the team with three aces.
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