Facebook Twitter

What Utah politicians are saying about the racist incident at a BYU volleyball game

SHARE What Utah politicians are saying about the racist incident at a BYU volleyball game
Utah’s Dani Drews hits the ball in a volleyball game against BYU at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah.

Utah’s Dani Drews (1) hits the ball as BYU’s Kenzie Koerber, left and Kennedy Eschenberg jumps to block in an NCAA volleyball game at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

Several Utah politicians weighed in on the racist incident that occurred during a volleyball match between BYU and Duke last Friday, with the only Black member of the state Legislature calling it “shocking and shameful.”

On Sunday morning, Blue Devils volleyball player Rachel Richardson, who had racial slurs yelled at her during a match, addressed the incident on Twitter.

Richardson, a sophomore, 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.” She 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.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox had strong words about what happened, especially for those who hurl racial slurs.

“Just catching up on this terrible story. I’m disgusted that this behavior is happening and deeply saddened if others didn’t step up to stop it. As a society we have to do more to create an atmosphere where racist a**holes like this never feel comfortable attacking others,” he tweeted.

State Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said in a statement Monday, “The racial taunting of Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson and her teammates during a game last weekend was shocking and shameful. But the failure of game officials, coaching staff, and fans to intervene to stop the harassment shows that basic awareness about racist behaviors and how to respond appropriately is lacking.”

Hollins was the first Black woman elected to the Utah Legislature and is currently its only Black member.

Hollins said she appreciates BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe for speaking out after the game, but more work is needed.

“This appalling incident should be a reminder of why discussions of diversity and inclusion are so critical, and why our state must continue to make strides toward becoming a more accepting and inclusive place generally for everyone,” she said.

Utah GOP Rep Burgess Owens went after those in the stands who apparently didn’t do anything to stop the racist remarks.

“A young lady is verbally attacked by a despicable racist, and not ONE man stands up and puts a stop to it??!” he tweeted. “When did cowardice become so accepted that thousands can see this disgusting bullying and feel comfortable saying nothing??”

State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he is “horrified and disgusted” that the incident happened in Utah.

“I’m angry at the racist who spewed this inappropriate language, as well as at the others present who didn’t immediately call him out and shut it down. We must be better,” Weiler, a BYU alum, tweeted.

Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch, tweeted, “It is extremely sad when this type of behavior continues to happen. It’s up to every to speak up against it or it will continue to happen.”

BYU issued an apology on Saturday for the racist comments. One BYU fan, who is not a student, has been banned from all BYU athletic venues, and the school continues to seek more information about others who may have been involved, Holmoe said Monday on CNN.

Holmoe said he met with Richardson on Saturday and 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.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a tweet that there is no place in Utah or anywhere for racism.

“Sentiments of sadness and frustration will not extinguish the pain inflicted,” she said. “We must continue the fight to end all expressions of racism wherever they occur.”