The BYU athletic department issued a ban of a non-student fan on Saturday for use of a racial slur during a Cougars volleyball match against the Duke Blue Devils at BYU on Friday night.
On Saturday morning, Lesa Pamplin of Fort Worth, Texas, took to Twitter and indicated that her goddaughter, Duke player Rachel Richardson, was called a racial slur “every time she served” and “was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus.”
Eventually, Pamplin wrote, a police officer was put by the Duke bench, but Pamplin wrote that “Not one freaking adult did anything to protect her. I’m looking at you @BYU. You allowed this racist behavior to continue without intervening. Apologizing to her parents after the fact is not enough. She will soon be sharing her story.”
On Saturday afternoon, as Pamplin’s tweets started going viral, BYU issued a statement which read, “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. 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.”
BYU indicated that the banned fan was sitting in the student section at the match but does not attend the university.
“To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a small number of fans in last night’s volleyball match in the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not strong enough language,” the school’s 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 to 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.”
Cougars athletic director Tom Holmoe was reached by USA Today’s Scooby Axson on Saturday and was quoted as saying, “My concern is for Rachel and her well-being, and the school has investigated up to this point. The bottom line is that we are going to have to do more. And we are going to have to be vigilant and continue to say that this is not to be tolerated in any way.”
Holmoe also addressed the crowd at BYU’s women’s volleyball match Saturday night and later tweeted about it.
Before tonight’s game, I felt compelled to talk to our fans in attendance and address last night’s very unfortunate incident. Cougar Nation, we’ve got to be better, and we’ve got to have the courage to take care of each other and our guests at our BYU sporting events. pic.twitter.com/5qsze8i51G— Tom Holmoe (@TomHolmoe) August 28, 2022
On Saturday evening, BYU released another statement indicating that members of the athletic department spent “hours” investigating the incident, including reviewing video of the game and speaking with event management and security staff.
The university said when Duke initially reported the behavior, “there was no individual pointed out” and no one was able to identify the suspected culprit until after the game was over.
That is the fan who has been banned from university events, the school said.
“This behavior cannot be acceptable. To any of us,” the school said. “...We understand that the Duke players’ experience is what matters here. They 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.
“We commit to increased communication with our event staff to handle these types of situations better and having further discussion with our student section, educating them on our fan code of conduct.”
Following BYU’s first statement, Duke released a statement in which it said that its match Saturday in Provo against Rider as part of the doTERRA Classic would be played at an “alternate location” away from Smith Fieldhouse.
“First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes,” Blue Devils athletic director Nina King said in the statement. “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.”