Brigham Young University (BYU) announced they completed their investigation into allegations that fans targeted and racially heckled Duke University volleyball player Rachel Richardson and her African American teammates concluding they did not find “any evidence to corroborate the allegation.”
Richardson, who liked a tweet depicting a black man whipping three white men as they picked cotton back in 2020, accused spectators of targeting and racially heckling her and her African American teammates during a volleyball match against BYU.
Richardson posted to Twitter, “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.”
She also stated, “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.”
She used the now heavily disputed claim to try and morally lecture BYU writing, “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.”
Richardson provided more specifics to ESPN’s Holly Rowe, “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.”
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.”
Richardson’s entire story now appears to be a complete fabrication. BYU Athletics released a statement sharing the results of their investigation into Richardson’s claims.
It states, “BYU has completed its investigation into the allegation that racial heckling and slurs took place at the Duke vs. BYU women’s volleyball match on August 26. We reviewed all available video and audio recordings, including security footage and raw footage from all camera angles taken by BYUtv of the match, with broadcasting audio removed (to ensure that the noise from the stands could be heard more clearly).”
“We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event: Duke athletic department personnel and student-athletes, BYU athletic department personnel and student-athletes, event security and management and fans who were in the arena that evening, including many of the fans in the on-court student section.”
They concluded, “From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event.”
Given they found no evidence to support Richardson’s claims, BYU also rescinded their ban on a spectator that Richardson had identified as one of the individuals racially heckling her.
They stated, “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. 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.”
BYU previously banned the spectator shortly after Richardson had identified him without ascertaining the veracity of her claims.
The BYU Athletics department tweeted back on August 27th, “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.
Not only did they ban the spectator without conducting any kind of investigation at the time, but they also offered an apology to Duke University and Rachel Richardson without determining whether or not she was telling the truth.
The statement 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.”
Their report claims that “campus police say it doesn’t appear the man who was eventually banned was the person shouting the N-word.”
The police report also noted, “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 Police Lt. George Besendorfer also told the outlet, “When we watched the video, we did not observe that behavior from him.”
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.”