BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe appeared on CNN Monday to address his department’s ongoing investigation into a racist incident during Friday’s BYU-Duke volleyball match.
Holmoe told CNN about his Saturday meeting with Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson, who was the target of verbal attacks. He said they had a “personal conversation” and that he committed to standing with her in the fight against racism.
“We’re in the same battle. What she is asking for right now in her very beautiful statement where she’s calling for an end to racism, we’re on her side. We’re in that battle with her,” he said.
One BYU fan has already been banned, and the school continues to seek more information about others who may have been involved, Holmoe said.
“If there’s someone that has video or photos, we want to be able to find these people whoever they are,” he said, noting that if BYU students were involved, they could face expulsion.
Holmoe said BYU sent four ushers and one police officer into the crowd during Friday’s match after hearing reports of racial slurs being used, but that they weren’t able to identify the perpetrators.
“We have spent a lot of time in last three days poring over videos from the BYU broadcast,” he said.
The use of racial slurs by a fan at Friday’s BYU-Duke volleyball match also came up on ESPN’s “First Take” on Monday, and the panelists had harsh words for the BYU community.
Stephen A. Smith, Michael Irvin and Marcus Spears said that statements from Holmoe and others on the incident have been strong, but that they’re still wondering why BYU students, coaches and players didn’t respond to the racial slurs in the moment.
“This was a gym, so everybody heard this boy. ... Nobody gets away clean,” Irvin said.
Smith said that, although he feels horrible for Richardson, he’s thankful that moments like these can spur reflection.
“Who is thinking about going to BYU now? I think this is going to change their mind about that. If you’re BYU, you’re in the eye of the storm now. What’s your student body like? What’s your faculty like? What’s your administration like? I don’t know the answer but there’s a whole lot of people who think they do now,” Smith said.
The “First Take” and CNN segments come after a chaotic weekend for the BYU athletic program, which has worked to make amends to Richardson, educate students and hold fans accountable.
Saturday, BYU Athletics announced that it had banned a fan “identified by Duke,” noting that he was not a student, although he had been sitting in the student section.
In a statement, school leaders said the athletics department “spent hours” reviewing video of the event and speaking with security teams.
“We spent hours ... (trying) to figure out what exactly occurred and how it might’ve happened. This behavior cannot be acceptable,” the statement said.
The statement continued, “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. It wasn’t until after the game that 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.”
Holmoe then addressed the crowd at Saturday’s BYU volleyball match and called on the BYU community to do better in the future.
“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,” he said.
During the ESPN segment, Smith and others wondered why BYU students near the unruly fan didn’t “do better” in the moment, since, in 2022, everyone should know that shouting racial slurs is unacceptable. Coaches and administrators should have stepped in sooner too, Spears said.
“The reaction time is what I have an issue with. Why don’t we fix these things and rectify them in real time. Why do we come out and make statements afterwards?” he said.
You can’t say you have “zero tolerance” for racism if you’re slow to respond, Irvin added.
Spears, whose own daughter is a highly recruited volleyball player, said fans who are near a bad actor in the crowd need to be willing to do what’s right.
“We have to ... be good enough and strong enough ... to have people like that removed,” he said.
On CNN, Holmoe said that Friday’s incident isn’t a reflection of BYU’s culture and that he and other campus leaders think racism is “disgusting.”
“The fact that it happened here in our gym is very disturbing to us, but we will continue to do everything we can” to address Friday’s situation, he said.