BYU Says No Evidence Racial Slurs Used Toward Duke's Rachel Richardson, Unbans Fan

Adam WellsSeptember 9, 2022

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 11: A general view of the net before the match between the Washburn Ichabods and the Tampa Spartans during the Division II Women’s Volleyball Championship held at the Bob Martinez Athletics Center on December 11, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

BYU has reversed course and unbanned a fan who was accused of using racial slurs toward Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson during an Aug. 26 match.

In a statement released Friday, the school said it never "found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event" after an extensive review.

"As a result of our investigation, we have lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match," the statement continued. "We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity. BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused."

Duke athletic director Nina King issued a statement in response to BYU's decision:

"The 18 members of the Duke University volleyball team are exceptionally strong women who represent themselves, their families, and Duke University with the utmost integrity. We unequivocally stand with and champion them, especially when their character is called into question. Duke Athletics believes in respect, equality and inclusiveness, and we do not tolerate hate and bias."

The incident first became public when Richardson's godmother, Lesa Pamplin, tweeted (h/t ESPN.com) Richardson was called a racial slur "every time she served" the ball.

Marvin Richardson, Rachel's father, corroborated Pamplin's account of what happened in an Aug. 27 interview with Kevin Reynolds of the Salt Lake Tribune.

BYU's athletic department announced that same day the fan, who is not a student at the university, was banned from attending all future athletic events.

Rachel Richardson issued a statement in the wake of BYU's initial decision:

rachel ♡ @rachrich03

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/morethanavolleyballplayer?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#morethanavolleyballplayer</a> <a href="https://t.co/JJsofA6VgI">pic.twitter.com/JJsofA6VgI</a>

BYU campus police said on Aug. 30 they didn't find any evidence of a fan yelling racial slurs.

“When we watched the video, we did not observe that behavior from him,” BYU Police Lt. George Besendorfer said, via Courtney Tanner and Reynolds of the Salt Lake Tribune.

In a statement provided to Tanner and Reynolds, BYU associate athletic director Jon McBride said "various" employees in the athletics department "have been reviewing video from BYUtv and other cameras in the facility" and they "have been unable to find any evidence of that person using slurs in the match."

In an interview with ESPN's Holly Rowe, Richardson said she "heard a very strong, negative racial slur" when she was getting ready to serve the ball.

"... So I served the ball," she explained, "got through the play. And then the next time I went back to serve, I heard it extremely clear again, but that was the end of the game."

Richardson is the lone Black starter on Duke's volleyball team. She is in her sophomore year for the Blue Devils and has played in all seven games this season.

Duke played BYU in a four-team round-robin invitational tournament with Rider and Washington State from Aug. 26 to 27 at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah.