Defending national champion women’s basketball team cancels BYU series over racial slur allegation
BYU issues statement in response to South Carolina decision.
The defending women’s basketball national champion South Carolina Gamecocks have canceled their home-and-home series with Brigham Young University over a racial slur a Duke volleyball player said was hurled at her by a crowd member at an Aug. 26 match in Provo, Utah.
“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff. The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series,” said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, a Hall of Fame player who won three Olympic gold medals with Team USA and then won a fourth as its coach in 2020.
“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff. The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.” – @dawnstaleyhttps://t.co/sEdC2ApkIW pic.twitter.com/LZqpOGRrl9— South Carolina Women's Basketball (@GamecockWBB) September 2, 2022
BYU’s women’s basketball account on Twitter responded with a statement.
“We are extremely disappointed in South Carolina’s decision to cancel our series and ask for patience with the on-going investigation,” the statement said. “We believe the solution is to work together to root out racism and not to separate from one another.”
We are extremely disappointed in South Carolina’s decision to cancel our series and ask for patience with the on-going investigation. We believe the solution is to work together to root out racism and not to separate from one another. #LoveOneAnother— BYU Women's Hoops (@byuwbb) September 3, 2022
Staley has won two NCAA championships at South Carolina, in 2017 and 2022.
BYU had not released its 2022-23 women’s basketball schedule, but South Carolina’s news release said the teams were supposed to play the Gamecocks’ season opener on Nov. 7 at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina.
The teams were scheduled to play at BYU in 2023-24.
BYU has been under fire since Duke outside hitter Rachel Richardson said she heard “a very strong and negative racial slur” from the ROC student section behind her the four times she served during a match in BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse on Aug. 26.
Richardson said she first heard the slurs when she served two balls at separate times during the second set of the four-set match that No. 7 BYU won, 3-1. She told a teammate after the set about what she heard as the teams switched sides, and the teammate advised her to tell Duke coach Jolene Nagel.
Nagel informed BYU volleyball coach Heather Olmstead about the incident, and Olmstead immediately took action, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said in an op-ed published by the Deseret News.
Four staff members and a uniformed BYU police officer were placed in the student section, where they later were joined by a Duke athletic administrator.
Richardson said the slurs intensified when she twice served again during the fourth set, but the police officer did not hear them, according to the lengthy police report he filed. The staffers and apparently the Duke athletic administrator did not hear any slurs either, Holmoe said.
Richardson tweeted a statement after the game in which she alleged BYU did not take immediate action. Some criticized her and Duke’s coaches and players for not pulling the team off the floor during the match.
Others, like ESPN’s Michael Irvin on the network’s show “First Take” mistakenly assumed that the slurs could be heard throughout the gym and that BYU fans, coaches, players, administrators and other staff stood by after hearing them.
However, no video or audio has captured any evidence of the slurs. The game, which was sold out and set an attendance record with 5,507 fans, was broadcast live on a national cable network, BYUtv, and the broadcast is available on BYUtv.org and on YouTube.
“The game video is publicly available on BYUtv, and we welcome anyone who might have more information of any inappropriate behavior from the event to reach out to the university,” Holmoe wrote. “But the narrative that our coaching staff didn’t take immediate action is unsubstantiated and unfair.”
Another sports figure has called the incident a hoax.