Last week, outrage erupted over reports about a fan who allegedly yelled racial slurs at a Black player on the Duke volleyball team during a game held at Brigham Young University. The fan was reportedly not a student at BYU, but sat in the student section.
In the wake of the allegations, the university said the fan had been banned from all athletic venues on campus. But an investigation indicates the man in question was wrongly accused, according to a new report.
The player, Rachel Richardson, who is the only Black starter on the team, was called a racial slur “every time she served,” according to Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, who made the accusations in a tweet that has now been hidden.
In a lengthy statement posted to Twitter, Rachel Richardson added that "both the officials and BYU coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game, but failed to take necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior."
BYU launched an investigation into the incident, but according to the Salt Lake Tribune, police can't find any evidence that the racial slurs took place. BYU Police Lt. George Besendorfer said a review of surveillance footage of the crowd shows the individual who was banned wasn’t shouting anything while the Duke player was serving.
“When we watched the video, we did not observe that behavior from him,” he said.
Richardson claimed she “very distinctly” heard a “very strong and negative racial slur” come from the student section during Friday’s match while she was serving, but BYU Associate Athletic Director Jon McBride affirmed the findings of police, saying in a statement that "we have been unable to find any evidence of that person using slurs in the match.”
The police report shows that the fan who was banned “got in the face” of of an unidentified Duke volleyball player and made her uncomfortable. The player’s family said she was "approached by a white man who told her to watch her back," according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Afterwards, Duke coaches and players identified the man as the same one who allegedly yelled the N-word from the BYU student section.
Police talked to the man, who was a Utah Valley University student, and he denied shouting any slurs, saying the only thing he yelled was that the players “shouldn’t hit the ball into the net.” He admitted approaching the Duke player after the match, thinking she was a friend of his who played for BYU.
“There was nothing seen on the game film that led me to believe” that the man “was the person who was making comments to the player who complained about being called the N-word," an officer wrote in the report.
Security footage also shows that man was not present when Richardson was serving, which is when Richardson’s family and Duke officials said the slurs were yelled. Other footage shows the man distracted on his phone while Richardson is serving.
BYU's investigation is still ongoing.
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