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Duke's Rachel Richardson Discusses Impact of Being Target of Racial Slurs by BYU Fans

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVAugust 30, 2022

C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson spoke about her experience being targeted with racial slurs by members of the crowd during Friday's match against BYU in Provo, Utah, in an interview with ESPN's Holly Rowe.

On Sunday, Richardson posted a message on Twitter saying she and some of her teammates who are Black "were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match. The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe."

She also said officials and BYU's coaching staff "did not adequately address the situation" during and after the match, although she praised BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe's response.

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During her discussion with Rowe, Richardson said she "heard a very strong, negative racial slur" in the second set. By the fourth set, she said the "atmosphere of the student section had changed" to become "more extreme, more intense," and she noted one man specifically, saying, "we were just made very uncomfortable by him in particular."

ESPN noted BYU has banned that fan from all athletic venues and issued a statement saying it has a "zero-tolerance approach to this behavior."

Richardson praised Holmoe's response during her interview with Rowe: "He's probably one of the most genuine people that I've ever met. … I could see like how sorry he was and honestly shocked that it happened."

After saying in her Twitter statement that she didn't want to give the fans the satisfaction of stopping the game, she told Rowe she was happy with that decision.

"I believe that meeting anger with anger, it just starts a cycle of more anger," Richardson said. "As a young Black woman in America. I know I don't have the privilege of reacting all the time or else it paints that face of, oh, you're just another angry Black woman and you know, my Black male counterparts, they also don't have that privilege or else it's just, oh, that's just like an aggressive angry Black man."

She said she is ready to "move forward" and "start being proactive" but explained further why she didn't react during the match:

"In the light of, oh, that's just another Black person. Like, no, they have to look at me as of a person, as a person they're forced to respect me. And that's exactly what I wanted in that game. I could have turned around and I could have said nasty things back. I could have done anything. I could have been rude to the athletic director when he was kind enough to come speak to me in person.

"I could have been rude when I spoke to the BYU coach, but no, that doesn't get you anywhere. I could be pointing fingers and saying like, I (want) BYU volleyball to be shut down. I want that win taken away from them. No, because that's not going to get anybody anywhere. That's not going to do anything. And that would, that would dial all of this back down into just one situation."

BYU won the match three sets to one, and Duke's following match against Rider was moved to a different location.

Richardson and the Blue Devils won that one in four sets and face East Tennessee State on Friday in their home opener.

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