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Utah Women's Basketball Team Changes Hotel After Alleged Race Hate Crimes During NCAA Tournament

The Utah Utes were staying in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, roughly 30 miles away from the arena where a game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs was taking place

<p>Chris Gardner/Getty</p> Head coach Lynne Roberts of the Utah Utes

Chris Gardner/Getty

Head coach Lynne Roberts of the Utah Utes

Utah's women's basketball team reportedly changed hotels while staying in Idaho after experiencing a string of "racial hate crimes" as they competed in the NCAA March Madness Tournament.

Head coach Lynne Roberts explained during a press conference on Monday that her team had been staying at a hotel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, roughly 30 miles away from where Utah played Gonzaga University in Spokane.

"We had several instances of some kind of racial hate crimes towards our program," Roberts, 48, told reporters at the podium, per CNN and The Washington Post. The coach described the situation as "incredibly upsetting for all of us" and "shocking" while speaking to the media.

Representatives for the University of Utah did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

While Roberts did not share details of the reported incident, Utah's deputy athletics director Charmelle Green, who is Black, shared additional information in an interview with KSL.com on Monday night.

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According to Green, the Utah women's basketball team was walking to a local restaurant with members of the school's band and cheerleading team on Thursday evening when a white truck pulled up alongside them, revved the vehicle's engine and yelled a racial slur at the group.

Green told the outlet that they were "in shock" after the car sped off.

Once the Utes finished eating dinner, the team was forced into another scary situation when two trucks were allegedly using their engines to intimidate the group and continued shouting the racial slur.

Green told KSL.com that she became "emotional and started to cry" at that point. The group managed to safely return to their hotel, where Green said she was "numb the entire night."

<p>Chris Gardner/Getty</p> Lani White #3, Reese Ross #20, Kennady McQueen #24, Ines Vieira #2, and Dasia Young #34 of the Utah Utes celebrate their win over the USC Trojans

Chris Gardner/Getty

Lani White #3, Reese Ross #20, Kennady McQueen #24, Ines Vieira #2, and Dasia Young #34 of the Utah Utes celebrate their win over the USC Trojans

According to CNN, Spokane's limited hotel accommodations for the tournament forced Utah to stay in the hotel approximately 30 miles from the McCarthey Athletic Center, where the Utes played the Bulldogs Monday night.

Green told KSL.com that the Utes were "actually rather taken aback by" the accommodations "because when we were planning to host we were having similar issues in which we were seeking hotels either in Provo or Park City or Ogden, and the NCAA said no to that, so the fact that we were sent to a place that wasn't even the state that the university who's hosting resides was incredibly problematic."

The region of Spokane reportedly has a history of far-right extremists groups living in the area. According to CNN, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported at least nine of those groups, including Proud Boys and ACT, were operating in the area in 2018.

The NCAA, Utah and the host team Gonzaga worked together to find a new hotel for the Utes, according to KSL.com and CNN.

After Thursday's incident, Green spoke to Athletics Director for Utah, Mark Harlan, who said the team "should not have been there" in the first place when he spoke to KSL.com. "I do appreciate the NCAA and Gonzaga moving us from that situation, but we should never have been there in the first place. So a lot of folks need to get home and heal from the whole matter," he said.

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On Monday evening, Gonzaga University released a statement via X (formerly known as Twitter) condemning the "racially disparaging comments" .

"Gonzaga University has been made aware of the racially disparaging comments made to visiting student-athletes and travel party members in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in advance of the NCAA Women’s First and Second Round Basketball Tournament games these past several days. Hate speech in any form is repugnant, shameful and must never be tolerated," the university stated.

The statement continued, "We worked hard to secure the opportunity to serve as the host institution, and our first priority is and must be the safety and welfare of all student-athletes, coaches, families and supporting staff. To this end, we have worked closely with the NCAA and program participants to support the security and safety of everyone involved."

"We are frustrated and deeply saddened to know that what should always be an amazing visitor and championship experience was in any way compromised by this situation, for it in no way reflects the values, standards, and beliefs to which we at Gonzaga University hold ourselves accountable," the school concluded.

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