BYU says it didn't find evidence a fan racially heckled a Black female Duke volleyball player
Following a two-week investigation, BYU said in a statement it found no evidence to corroborate allegations of racial heckling by a fan at a women's volleyball match on Aug. 26.
The university said it reviewed audio recordings, security footage and "reached out" to at least 50 people at the event before coming to its decision Friday morning.
BYU added that it lifted its ban on the fan the school originally identified as the person who allegedly used a racial slur directed at a member of the Duke women's volleyball team.
"There will be some who assume we are being selective in our review," BYU said in the statement. "To the contrary, we have tried to be as thorough as possible in our investigation, and we renew our invitation for anyone with evidence contrary to our findings to come forward and share it.
"Despite being unable to find supporting evidence of racial slurs in the many recordings and interviews, we hope that all those involved will understand our sincere efforts to ensure that all student-athletes competing at BYU feel safe."
Following BYU's findings, Duke athletic director Nina King said in a statement that she stood by the members of the women's volleyball "especially when their character is called into question."
"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," King said in the statement. "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."
Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson alleged spectators in the BYU student section used racial slurs toward her and other Black teammates during last month's match and accosted her afterward. She later criticized officials and the BYU coaching staff for failing to "take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior to create a safe environment."
BYU quickly identified a student from nearby Utah Valley State as the alleged source of the heckling and banned the man from attending games. Police later offered a conflicting account that cast doubt that the man identified by BYU actually said any racial slurs.
From the Salt Lake Tribune:
"An officer later reviewed footage, according to the report, and wrote: '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.'
"During the match’s second set, the officer observed, the UVU student was not present when Richardson was serving, which is when Richardson’s family and Duke officials said the slurs were yelled. And later, when she was serving again, he was playing on his phone, the officer wrote."
Despite the back-and-forth claims, South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley canceled the team's home-and-home series with BYU which was scheduled to begin in November. Staley noted, and South Carolina's athletic director agreed, that "the incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”
Staley released a statement on Friday affirming her decision, but expressing regret that others were being drawn into the controversy around her:
“I continue to stand by my position. After my personal research, I made a decision for the well-being of my team. I regret that my university, my athletics director Ray Tanner and others got drawn into the criticism of a choice that I made.”