NAACP Utah ‘extremely disappointed’ about racist taunting of U of U women’s basketball team

Mar 26, 2024, 10:43 PM | Updated: 11:58 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP is speaking out after the reported racist incidents involving the University of Utah Women’s Basketball team in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on Thursday.

The president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch and NAACP Tri-State Conference of Idaho, Nevada, and Utah, Jeanetta Williams said she’s “extremely disappointed” by what happened and that “acts of hate crimes should not be taken lightly.”

“I have spoken with the Coeur d’Alene Chief of Police, and he assured me that he and his department are doing a thorough investigation,” Williams said in a statement to KSL TV. “However, they need to speak with any of the victims that witnessed hearing and seeing what happened to get more details and vehicle descriptions.”

Williams also confirmed that the FBI is involved.

As a longtime resident of Idaho before moving to Utah, Williams she said she is very familiar with Coeur d’Alene and was part of the organizing group that formed the five-state Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment in 1986, after a bombing targeted activist and Catholic pastor and priest, Bill Wassmuth, by the Aryan Nations.

Earlier Tuesday, Coeur d’Alene officials said what happened is not representative of their city.

“To the young women who endured racial slurs while visiting, I offer my most sincere apology,” Coeur d’Alene Mayor Jim Hammond said.

Police said they’re looking into two incidents that happened last Thursday as the team was headed to a dinner from their hotel.

They say a vehicle drove by and people yelled racial slurs. Then, as the team and others were walking back to their hotel, a vehicle slowly passed the group, revving its engine and shouting disparaging words and threats. Local authorities now say they are investigating the two separate encounters and multiple possible crimes.

“There’s an Idaho statute regarding malicious harassment. The second one is a disorderly conduct statute. And then thirdly, there is a federal crime based on what actually occurred that evening that might be appropriate, Chief Lee White said.

Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan also took to X.

“We all appreciate the outpouring of support for our students and staff who experienced these hate crimes in Idaho. They will remain our focus,” he wrote.

In a joint statement with the university, Harlan added that they are deeply troubled and shaken by what happened. He also thanked the local officials for their “strong denouncement of the abhorrent conduct as well as their commitment to bring those responsible to justice.”

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NAACP Utah ‘extremely disappointed’ about racist taunting of U of U women’s basketball team