BYU reverses ban on fan after investigation into volleyball match with Duke
PROVO, Utah — BYU said it had found no evidence to corroborate allegations of racist heckling at the women’s volleyball match with Duke University Friday, capping off an internal investigation into the incident.
The findings prompted the school to reverse its decision on the fan in question. BYU said it had lifted the ban and apologized to the person who was accused of shouting racial slurs from the student section.
“We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity,” a statement posted to their site said. “BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.”
Lex Scott, who founded the Utah chapter of Black Lives Matter commented on BYU’s reaction.
“Just because they couldn’t find footage doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen,” she said. “The player said it happened. Her teammates said it happened.”
Scott, who now lives out of state, said she would like to see a full investigation by the NCAA.
“We are asked to provide DNA evidence and mounds of evidence to prove that something that we experienced happened to us. This is the playbook of racism.”
In the two weeks since a Duke volleyball player alleged she was targeted with racial slurs during the Aug. 26 match, BYU said it reviewed all available video and audio recordings from the match, including security footage and raw video from BYUtv. The private university said it also reached out to more than 50 people who attended – including fans, BYU and Duke staff, and students and event staff. It said they did not find evidence to support the allegations.
“That’s a great thing but it doesn’t rule out that there’s racism at BYU,” Sierra Herlevi, a junior at BYU said.
“I think a lot of people aren’t going to believe that it didn’t happen still, but I think it’s good to know that it was investigated and—at least for now—there hasn’t been any concrete evidence,” sophomore Carson Bailey said.
BYU Athletics said it will not tolerate any conduct that makes a student-athlete feel unsafe.
“That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation,” BYU said.
A statement from BYU Athletics regarding the investigation of the Aug. 26 volleyball match, examining our fan behavior and response.https://t.co/Vj3HlW6xzV
— BYU Cougars (@BYUCougars) September 9, 2022
“I hope that if that was actually happening that other students would stand up to it,” Bailey said. “I don’t like to think that anybody would lie about those kinds of things, but I think it’s really easy to paint BYU in a bad light when it comes to race.”
“Our fight is against racism, not against any individual or any institution,” BYU said. “Each person impacted has strong feelings and experiences, which we honor, and we encourage others to show similar civility and respect. We remain committed to rooting out racism wherever it is found. We hope we can all join together in that important fight.”
The incident stole the headlines during the first couple of weeks of the semester, Herlevi hopes some good will come out of it.
#Update to this story we did on allegations of racism at the @BYU volleyball game. BYU says they haven’t found any evidence of racial heckling. They apologized to and lifted the ban on the accused student. And made clear they’re committed to rooting out #racism.@KSL5TV https://t.co/FHD22TIryg pic.twitter.com/SWsRBKvZc2
— Matt Rascon (@MattRasconNews) September 9, 2022
“Even just it coming out has brought a lot of conversations at BYU. And I feel like it’s a really important conversation that we’re having,” she said. “And I feel like it’s my job as a white student to stand with Black students at BYU.”
“There will be some who assume we are being selective in our review,” BYU’s statement said. “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.”
Duke University’s Athletic Director Nina King released a statement after BYU’s statement:
“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. 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.” #HateWontLiveHere
— Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) September 9, 2022
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox faced criticism in the wake of the announcement from BYU, because of his immediate reaction to the allegations when he condemned the fan. In response he tweeted out a statement that said in part:
“I will always speak out strongly against racism. I also believe it is important to step back and acknowledge new facts as they come to light and speak publicly about them as well. Part of that requires patience, something I could have done better in this situation. I apologize to the fan who apparently was unfairly singled out.”
Here is the full statement from BYU Athletics:
“As part of our commitment to take any claims of racism seriously, BYU has completed its investigation into the allegation that racial heckling and slurs took place at the Duke vs. BYU women’s volleyball match on August 26. We reviewed all available video and audio recordings, including security footage and raw footage from all camera angles taken by BYUtv of the match, with broadcasting audio removed (to ensure that the noise from the stands could be heard more clearly). We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event: Duke athletic department personnel and student-athletes, BYU athletic department personnel and student-athletes, event security and management and fans who were in the arena that evening, including many of the fans in the on-court student section.
“From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event. As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation.
“As a result of our investigation, we have lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match. We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity. BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.
“Our fight is against racism, not against any individual or any institution. Each person impacted has strong feelings and experiences, which we honor, and we encourage others to show similar civility and respect. We remain committed to rooting out racism wherever it is found. We hope we can all join together in that important fight.
There will be some who assume we are being selective in our review. 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. As stated by Athletics Director Tom Holmoe, BYU and BYU Athletics are committed to zero-tolerance of racism, and we strive to provide a positive experience for everyone who attends our athletic events, including student-athletes, coaches and fans, where they are valued and respected.
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