Duke volleyball player called racial slurs at BYU match said school, officials failed in response

A Duke volleyball player who was subject to racial slurs and heckling during the Blue Devils’ match at BYU on Friday said that officials at the game and BYU officials were far too slow to help them after being made aware of what was happening.

Rachel Richardson, a sophomore outside hitter for Duke, confirmed that she and her Black teammates were heckled during the game by BYU fans. Richardson’s godmother said Saturday that Richardson was called a racial slur every time she served, was threatened by a white male and told to “watch her back” and more.

Richardson said in a lengthy statement on Twitter on Sunday morning that she and her other Black teammates were “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match,” and that neither BYU officials nor game officials reacted well enough to help protect them both in the moment and after the contest had ended.

“The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe,” Richardson wrote. “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 to create a safe environment. As a result, my teammates and I had to struggle 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.”

Richardson praised BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe for his help. BYU has since banned a fan from all athletic venues on campus, and said that the man in question was not a BYU student.

Richardson was reportedly supposed to meet with BYU coach Heather Olmstead about the incident, too, but Olmstead reportedly did not show up.

Richardson said it was never their intention to call BYU out, “but rather to call them up.”

“This is not the first time this has happened in college athletics, and sadly it likely will not be the last time,” she said. “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.”

Richardson also defended her and her teammates’ move to keep playing on Friday instead of protesting or refusing to move forward.

She said that she didn’t want the heckling to stop her from doing what she loved.

“I refused to allow those racist bigots to feel any degree of satisfaction from thinking that their comments had ‘gotten to me,’” she said. “So, I pushed through and finished the game. Therefore, on behalf of my African American teammates and I, we do not want to receive pity or to be looked at as helpless. We do not feel as though we are victims of some tragic unavoidable event.

“We are proud to be young African American women; We are proud to be Duke student athletes, and we are proud to stand up against racism.”

A Duke volleyball player said she was heckled and targeted with racial slurs at BYU on Friday night.
A Duke volleyball player said she was heckled and targeted with racial slurs at BYU on Friday night. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos/Getty Images)