CRIME

Idaho lawmakers question reports of U of U women’s basketball team’s racist harassment

Mar 29, 2024, 4:46 PM | Updated: Mar 31, 2024, 5:24 am

BOISE, Idaho — A racial incident involving the University of Utah women’s basketball team sparked a spirited debate in the Idaho Senate Thursday over a resolution to condemn the incident in Coeur d’Alene.

The Utes were in Coeur d’Alene for the NCAA tournament earlier this week. As some players walked around town, the driver of a pickup truck revved the engine and yelled the “n” word at the team.

It happened twice.

The crime was first reported on March 21, and it was so disturbing the team switched hotels. Most senators condemned the harassment, even if they stated in chambers that they wanted evidence to show it happened.

Sen. D. Foreman was one of the most forceful.

“I will fully support the resolution because I understand what it stands for, but I want to make it clear that my support is in no way an apology,” Foreman said. “We as a state have nothing to apologize for to anyone. We don’t condone this type of behavior.”

SCR135 by Cary Schwanitz on Scribd

The incident was so disturbing that Couer d’Alene city officials held a news conference on Tuesday to offer apologies to the University of Utah women’s basketball team and provide updates on the investigation.

“On behalf of the city of Coeur d’Alene and all of its communities, I strongly condemn the appalling treatment of the female college athletes who were visiting,” Jim Hammond, mayor of Coeur d’Alene said.

Just before the Senate vote Thursday night, the sergeant at arms was told to track down two lawmakers who left the chamber in protest of the resolution.

When they returned to the chamber, the doors were locked and nobody was allowed to leave until a vote had been finalized.

What did Idaho Senators say?

Once debate started, several questioned whether the racist incident even happened.

Senator Brian Lenny during Idaho resolution debate

Senator Brian Lenny questioned whether a racial attack against the University of Utah women’s basketball team happened during a debate over a resolution to condemn the incident. (State of Idaho)

Sen. Brian Lenney said, “With this specific incident in Court D’Alene, has there been any actual evidence brought forward that this happened?”

“There is a police report. It was founded and I believe these women,” Sen. Abby Lee said.

Senator Abby Lee

Sen. Abby Lee urged the body to approve the resolution. (State of Idaho)

Sen. Linda Wright Hartgen denied claims that there was no evidence to support the incident.

“This has been in the news now for several days,” she said. “The Coeur D’Alene police say now that they have one video related to the Utah team’s racial harassment and asked the public for more if they have them.”

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.

Sen. Tammy Nichols said that as she reviewed the resolution, a story popped into her head about an incident at a NASCAR race. A black driver reported a noose in the garage and he thought it was a racial attack. It was later determined that the noose had been left in the garage weeks before the race.

Nichols stated that her concern was the resolution was about the specific incident involving the University of Utah basketball team and not a general statement to condemn racism.

One senator voted for the resolution but said he thought it was a “knee-jerk reaction.”

“If it comes out that this is a hoax, I find it really weird that we’re going to jump on this so quickly before the police have even come out and said … whether or not this has happened,” Sen. Chris Trakel said. “I want to push for an abundance of caution in the future.”

In the end, just a single senator voted against the resolution to condemn racism. His district included part of the city where this all happened, Coeur d’Alene.


Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story had a grammatical error that has been corrected.

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Idaho lawmakers question reports of U of U women’s basketball team’s racist harassment