On Sunday morning, the Duke Blue Devils volleyball player who had racial slurs yelled at her during a match at BYU on Friday addressed the incident in a post on Twitter.
Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Richardson wrote that she and her fellow African American teammates were “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entire match,” and that “the slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe.”
Richardson said game officials and the BYU coaching staff were made aware of what was going on during the match but didn’t do anything to try to stop it, nor did they when the match was over.
“No athlete, regardless of their race should ever be subject to such hostile conditions,” Richardson wrote. “God has called each of us to be members of one body, while we may have our differences they should never divide us.”
Richardson said that despite the incident, she doesn’t believe it is “a reflection of what the BYU athletes stand for,” and she also said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe “was quick to act in a very respectful and genuine manor (sp).”
Richardson said it is not her goal to “call BYU’s athletics out but to call them up. This is not the first time this has happened in college athletics and sadly it likely will not be the last time.”
That said, Richardson wrote that instances of it happening provide an opportunity to confront hateful and racist attitudes.
“It is not enough to indicate that you are not racist, instead you must demonstrate that you are anti-racist,” Richardson wrote.
Richardson closed her note by thanking all involved who have tried to help remedy the situation, and she wrote that she wanted to keep on playing despite what happened Friday.
Of her and her fellow African American teammates, Richardson wrote, “We do not feel as though we are victims of some tragic unavoidable event. We are proud to be young African American women; we are proud to be Duke student athletes, and we are proud to stand up against racism.”
Later Sunday, BYU women’s volleyball coach Heather Olmstead released a statement which read, “Racism in any form has no place at BYU, or anywhere else. I apologize for what the Duke student-athletes experienced during our match on Friday. We must do better.
“I have been able to have productive conversations with the student-athlete who was impacted the most Friday night, Rachel Richardson, the Duke volleyball team captain and the Duke volleyball head coach. They have helped me understand areas where we can do better. I thank them for taking the time to speak with me. I want the very best for them and the entire Duke team.”
The comments from Richardson and Olmstead came after Holmoe addressed the crowd at Saturday night’s BYU match at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo following Friday’s incident.
Holmoe first introduced himself and then said, “At last night’s game, there were some egregious and hurtful slurs that were directed at members of the Duke University women’s volleyball team. I’m the athletic director, and I’m accountable for what happens in all of our athletic events, and with that in mind, the process to get better and to heal has already begun.”
Holmoe said he met on Saturday morning with the athlete the slurs were directed at (identified as Rachel Richardson) and her coach.
“If you would have met her, you would have loved her, but you don’t know her, and so you don’t feel that way,” Holmoe said. “As children of God, we are responsible, it’s our mission to love one another and treat everybody with respect, and that didn’t happen (Friday). We fell very short. We didn’t live up to our best.
“I ask that everyone at all of our games that represent BYU, that you will have the courage to take a stand and be able to take care of each other, and more importantly the guests, our guests who we invite to come and play here so that we can be disciples of Christ and show it in every way.”
Holmoe concluded by saying, “I love how Cougar Nation, the ROC (Roar of Cougars, the student section) and all our fans are incredibly in support of our teams. Cheer ‘em on as loud as you can, but do not cross the line where you would hurt or harm anyone in any way. Love you, Cougs. Thanks.”
Holmoe’s comments echoed two statements from the BYU athletic department issued Saturday, which said the university has a “zero-tolerance approach” for use of racial slurs at events on campus.
“We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially to its student-athletes competing last night for what they experienced,” one of the statements read. “We want BYU athletic events to provide a safe environment for all, and there is no place for behaviors like this in our venues.”
The fan who directed the slurs at Richardson has been banned from campus events, the university said Saturday.
Correction: This story initially misidentified the Duke player as Rachel Robinson, not Rachel Richardson.