BYU athletic director condemns racism at women’s volleyball game

Aug 29, 2022, 8:34 PM

PROVO, Utah — Students returned to BYU for the first day of class Monday, amid fallout over what school officials call racism at a women’s volleyball game against Duke University.

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told KSL there is “zero tolerance for racism,” adding that new procedures would be put in place to help prevent a repeat of what happened at the Smith Fieldhouse.

On Friday, the BYU women’s volleyball team played Duke University with a packed house. During the game, Duke player Rachel Richardson said someone repeatedly shouted racial slurs at her and her Black teammates.

She said those slurs ultimately turned into threats that made her feel unsafe. In a social media post over the weekend, she accused officials of not responding quickly enough.

Holmoe met with Richardson the day after the game. He took responsibility and apologized for what happened and called on BYU students and the BYU community to do better.

“We have to root out racism,” Holmoe said. “We’re on the same page. We’re fighting the same fight with Duke.”

Holmoe said he felt BYU has been characterized unfairly. He said he felt they responded in a timely manner after receiving the report of racism and brought in staff to help protect Duke’s students. He said the challenge was they didn’t know who the offender was.

“There’s a lot of blame that’s being thrown around in a lot of places. But the fact is, we got to get better and we will.”

BYU later said Duke had identified the offender as someone who was not a BYU student but was sitting in the student section during the game. BYU has banned the person from all athletic venues.

BYU Bans Fan Following Racist Allegations During Volleyball Match

The incident and subsequent headlines and reaction on social media overshadowed some of the excitement of the first day of the Fall semester.

“BYU seems to keep getting in the headlines for the wrong reasons,” said Alex Nibley, a senior at BYU.

Nibley said her professor brought it up in class that morning and told the students if they found themselves next to someone who was shouting racial slurs, they needed to act to stop it.

“I really hope that it’s some kind of wake-up call,” Nibley said.

“There’s a certain amount of smack talk — I do it myself — but there’s a line you cannot cross and he obviously crossed that line,” said Evan Smith, a junior and a player on the BYU men’s soccer team.

But Smith also said he felt like BYU was getting too much of the blame since the offender was not a student.

McKay Knoll, a sophomore, said he was at the volleyball game with his family. He said he didn’t know what happened until after the game.

“I hope that that player for Duke feels that that is not an accurate reflection of what all BYU students are thinking and feeling,” he said. “I hope that there is now a sense of awareness that these things may be happening so what can we do more in the moment to respond?”

Holmoe did not detail plans for specific new procedures to help prevent future incidents. He appealed to the BYU community’s Christian faith to call on them to root out racism.

“Here at BYU, we call ourselves disciples of Christ. And we got to be able to live and love like the Savior. And if that’s our message, then we got to be able to do that first and foremost in our athletic department, on our campus, and in our community.”

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BYU athletic director condemns racism at women’s volleyball game