Fearless host Jason Whitlock recently accused ESPN host Stephen A. Smith of leading a “nationwide manhunt” for a “bigoted ghost” after Duke Volleyball player Rachel Richardson accused a spectator of using the n-word.
Duke Volleyball player and sophomore Rachel Richardson shared a lengthy message to her Twitter account claiming that she was “targeted and racially heckled” during a match against Brigham Young University.
Richardson stated, “Friday night in our match against Brigham Young University my fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match.”
“Both the officials and BYU coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game, but failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment,” she claimed.
She continued, “As a result, my teammates and I had to struggle just to get through the rest of the game, instead of just being able to focus on our playing so that we could compete at the highest level possible. They also failed to adequately address the situation immediately following the game when it was brought to their attention again.”
“No athlete, regardless of their race should ever be subject to such hostile conditions. God has called each of us to be members of one body, while we may have our differences they should never divide us,” she asserted.
Richardson went on to state, “Once notified, the BYU athletic director, Tom Holmoe, was quick to act in a very respectful and genuine manor (SP?). He is at the forefront of ensuring that the BYU athletic staff and players undergo education and training to better handle and prevent the racist, ignorant, and asinine behaviors that were exhibited by their fans during the match.”
She then detailed, “It is neither my nor Duke Volleyball’s goal to call BYU’s athletics out but rather to call them up. This is not the first this has happened in college athletics and sadly it likely will not be the last time. However, each time it happens we as student athletes, coaches, fans, and administrators have a chance to educate those who act in hateful ways.”
“This is an opportunity to dig deep into closed cultures which tolerate amoral racist acts, such as those exhibited Friday night, and change them for the better. It is not enough to indicate that you are not racist, instead you must demonstrate that you are anti-racist,” she proclaimed.
Richardson provided further details on what happened to self-proclaimed anti-racist Holly Rowe saying, “At the end of the second set I had gone back to serve and they heckled throughout the entire game. That’s just a part of sports. You get used to playing through extreme environments like that.”
“And very distinctly I heard a very strong, negative racial slur,” she claimed. “And then the next time I went back to serve I heard it extremely clear again, but that was the end of the game.”
— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) August 30, 2022
Richardson continued her telling of events, “So we switched sides and I went to a teammate that I’m super comfortable, super close with and I told her what had happened and immediately she was like, “Alright, let’s go tell coach.’ She came with me, we told our coaches, and they went to the officials.”
“The officials, we saw them speaking with the BYU staff and then we were told someone was speaking to the student section, and I was alright, and that was the end of it,” she detailed. “We played our third set on the opposite side of the net from them. And then in the fourth set we went back to that side, it was almost as though the atmosphere of the student section had changed.”
Richardson went on, “Even my teammates who were on the bench, my black teammates who were on the bench who don’t play; they were being called out, pointed at. It was really confusing as to why. That’s when the racial slurs and heckling — it just grew more extreme, more intense.”
Duke University also released a statement claiming, “Duke Volleyball experienced targeted racism this past weekend during our match at the Smith Fieldhouse on the campus of BYU.”
The statement continued, “Our utmost priority always has been and will continue to be the safety and well-being of our student-athletes. On Friday night, immediate action was taken by our student-athletes and staff to address the horrific circumstance which included racial slurs and threats, and additional protocols were followed via conversations following the match.”
“We stand against any form of racism, bigotry or hatred. As a program we have worked extensively to create an inclusive and safe environment where our student-athletes feel heard and supported but are not naive to the fact that there is always work to be done,” the program asserted.
“All 18 members of our team — our four Black student-athletes, in particular — have shown tremendous comradery and leadership and are to be commended for their perseverance,” they added.
“We will continue to empower our student-athletes to use their voices in the fight against all types of injustice,” it read. “From the beginning, our team has been adamant that hate will not win, nor prevent them from playing a game they love with the people they love.”
They concluded, “Lastly, we are grateful for the support of Duke Athletics and Duke University as we move forward.”
Brigham Young Athletics also release a statement indicating they banned a fan identified by Duke. The statement began, “All of God’s children deserve love and respect, and BYU Athletics is completely committed to leading out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice of any kind and rooting out racism.”
“When a student-athlete or a fan comes to a BYU sporting event, we expect that they will be treated with love and respect and feel safe on our campus. It is for this reason BYU has banned a fan who was identified by Duke during last night’s volleyball match from all BYU athletic venues. Although this fan was sitting in BYU’s student section, this person is not a BYU student,” the statement announced.
It continued, “To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a small number of fans in last night’s volleyball match in the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not strong enough language. We will not tolerate behavior of this kind. Specifically, the use of a racial slur at any of our athletic events is absolutely unacceptable and BYU Athletics holds a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior.”
“We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially to its student athletes competing last night for what they experienced,” the statement concluded. “We want BYU athletic events to provide a safe environment for all, and there is no safe place for behaviors like this in our venues.”
ESPN host Stephen A. Smith reacted to the situation recently sharing a clip from ESPN where he says, “I’m actually glad. I’m not glad it happened to her, but I am, Rachel Richardson, but I am happy that something like that happened. Why would I be? Why in God’s name would that be okay with me?”
Damnit…..this needed to be said! pic.twitter.com/kIn0YemGnj
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) August 31, 2022
He then answered his rhetorical question, “Who’s thinking about going to BYU now? There’s a lot of people that’s going to change their minds about that. If you are BYU you are in the eye of the storm now. … So 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 bunch of people that they think they do now that we heard about this and how you elected to handle it.”
“See, change is what this is all about,” he continued. “See, when you are doing what you do whatever that may be and you are able to be clandestine with it and hide in the dark and nothing ever happens to highlight and illuminate a culture that is taking place, you are able to sustain it and it lives in perpetuity because nobody ever gets to address because there is no cause to do so.”
“Now, there is. And because there is, you are BYU, let’s just say you ain’t the most attractive place for folks to come,” he began to raise his voice. “That ain’t the most attractive institution to be apart of right now. Now, that’s not the fault of everybody at the institution. I’m not trying to put a blemish on BYU. I’m saying BYU, you did it by allowing to this happen and not addressing it.”
Whitlock responded to Smith’s comments writing on Twitter, “Stephen A Smith leading a nationwide manhunt for a make-believe man who shouted the n-word at a volleyball match. ”
He then questioned, “Is America really that free of racism that we have time to hunt down bigoted ghosts?”
The claim that the racial slur is make-believe comes from a report in The Salt Lake Tribune claiming that “campus police say it doesn’t appear the man who was eventually banned was the person shouting the N-word.”
BYU Police Lt. George Besendorfer told the outlet, “When we watched the video, we did not observe that behavior from him.”
A police report obtained by the outlet also noted that an officer reviewed the footage and concluded, “There was nothing seen on the game film that led me to believe [the man who was banned] was the person who was making comments to the player who complained about being called the N-word.”
BYU Associate Athletic Director Jon McBride also indicated they have not found any evidence that the the man who was banned uttered a racial slur. McBride explained, “Various BYU Athletics employees have been reviewing video from BYUtv and other cameras in the facility that the volleyball team has access to for film review. This has been ongoing since right after the match on Friday night.”
He added, “The person who was banned was the person identified by Duke as using racial slurs. However, we have been unable to find any evidence of that person using slurs in the match.”
The man who was banned was identified as a Utah Valley University Student and he did tell the Salt Lake Tribune that he shouted at the players during the match, “shouldn’t hit the ball into the net.”
He also reportedly approached Richardson following the game believing he was a friend who played of his who played for BYU. The police report indicated that the man “got in the face” of Richardson. However, it did not indicate what was said.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune it’s after this altercation that Duke and Richardson identified him as the man who allegedly yelled the racial slur.
Despite Duke and seemingly Richardson identifying this man as yelling the racial slur during the second set, the Salt Lake Tribune reports, “During the match’s second set, the officer observed, the UVU student was not present when Richardson was serving”
The outlet also notes, “no one has come forward to say they heard the slur being shouted during the match.”
It also reveals that an officer attending the match “didn’t personally hear any slurs while he was visibly standing there, listening. He said all he heard was BYU fans calling specific Duke players by their first names.”
The officer wrote in his report, “I told the athletic staff that I never heard one racial comment being made.”
When questioned why Richardson might make up the racial slur, Whitlock stated, “The world runs on attention and victimhood. Greatest resources. She potentially made it up because society tells her victimhood is the highest form of blackness and humanity.”
What do you make of Whitlock calling out Smith? What do you make of Richardson’s claims?