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Duke Volleyball Player Racistly Abused During Match Gets Support From Athletes Including LeBron James
A racist incident that took place during a women’s college volleyball tournament has sparked criticism from coaches and administrators, while support for a targeted athlete is spread via social media.
During a game between Duke University and Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah on Friday night, a fan repeatedly used a racist epithet for black people, targeting Duke’s Rachel Richardson, the only black woman to start on the team. Richardson is one of three black players on the team.
Those in attendance at the incident say the fan screamed the slur and threatened Richardson every time she went to serve the ball.
The match was not stopped and the fan was not removed from the match. After the game, the fan was identified and the BYU athletics department says the fan has been banned from all athletic facilities and competitions at school.
Another match between Duke and Rider University at the same location was rescheduled due to the day’s events.
Duke’s Rachel Richardson (right) was racially assaulted during a game in Utah last weekend
Richardson posted a statement on her Twitter account reporting on the events.
“The slander and comments turned into threats that made us feel unsafe. Both BYU officials and coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game, but have not taken the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment,” Richardson said in a statement.
“As a result, my teammates and I had to struggle to get through the rest of the match, instead of just focusing on our game so we could compete at the highest level possible.
“It is neither my goal nor the goal of Duke Volleyball to call out BYU athletics, but to call them out. This isn’t the first time this has happened in college athletics and sadly it probably won’t be the last.
“Every time it happens, we as student athletes, coaches, fans and administrators have the opportunity to educate those who behave hatefully.
“While the bickering eventually took a mental toll on me, I refused to let it stop me from doing what I love and came to BYU for; that was to play volleyball. I refused to let those racist bigots feel any satisfaction in thinking that their comments “touched me.” So I persevered and finished the game.’
According to a statement from BYU Athletics, the fan was in the student section but is not a college student.
“All children of God deserve love and respect, and BYU Athletics is fully committed to leading the way in abandoning attitudes and actions of all kinds and eradicating racism,” the statement said.
“To say that we are extremely disheartened by the actions of a small number of fans during last night’s volleyball game at the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not strong enough. We do not tolerate this kind of behaviour.
“In particular, the use of racial slurs at any of our athletic events is absolutely unacceptable and BYU Athletics takes a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior.”
BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed the student section again before the tournament resumed Saturday in Provo.
“I am the athletic director and I am responsible for what happens in all our athletic events. And with that in mind, the process of getting well and healing has already begun.
“I want you to know that this morning I paid a visit to the young athlete on Duke’s team and her coach. If you had met her, you would have loved her. But you don’t know her and so you don’t feel that way.
“As children of God, we are responsible. Our mission is to love each other and treat everyone with respect. And that didn’t happen. We were very short.’
Duke released a statement of his own on the situation, with the school’s athletic director, Nina King, addressing the competition’s movement, saying, “First of all, our priority is the well-being of Duke student athletes.”
“They should always be given the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment that promotes equality and fair play.
“I have been in touch with the student-athletes who have been deeply affected, will continue to support them in every way possible and look forward to continuing to connect after their return from Provo.”
LeBron James posted his support for Robinson on Twitter, telling her to ‘get up’
Support for Richardson has made its way through social media, including from NBA superstar LeBron James.
James responded to a tweet from Richardson’s godmother, tweeting: ‘Tell your goddaughter to stand up straight, be proud and stay BLACK!!! We are a brotherhood and sisterhood! We have her back. This is not a sport. #striveforgreatness #morethanavollyballplayer (sic)’
Other black athletes commented on the problem with providing support; including former NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas, WNBA legends Sheryl Swoopes and Swin Cash, WWE star Titus O’Neil and U.S. volleyball Olympic gold medalist Chiaka Ogbogu.
A number of black athletes spoke out and supported Richardson and her teammates