BYU says investigation found no evidence of racial heckling at Aug. 26 volleyball match

The BYU women's volleyball team defeated Duke 3-1 (25-14, 25-19, 19-25, 25-19) at the Smith Fieldhouse on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. Photo: BYU Athletics Department

PROVO, Utah, Sept. 9, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Brigham Young University has issued a statement saying an internal investigation has failed to corroborate allegations of racial heckling during an Aug. 26 women’s volleyball match between BYU and Duke University.

The university says it has also “lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match” and “apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.”

BYU’s investigation was launched after the godmother of one of Duke’s players tweeted about the student athlete’s experience at the Smith Fieldhouse, saying “she was called a (racial slur) every time she served.”

The tweet also claimed the Duke player “was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench.”

BYU responded to the allegations by issuing an apology to Duke University, and its student athletes, while launching its own investigation.

Investigation results

Friday morning, BYU issued it’s findings along with the following press release:

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.

Duke University response

Shortly after the release of BYU’s statement, Nina King, Duke University’s vice president and director of athletics issued a response without directly mentioning 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,” King said.

“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.”

Gov. Cox’s reaction

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who had publicly condemned initial reports of the alleged racist incident, posted a tweet Friday, saying he wished had exercised more “patience” in speaking out about allegations.

The full text of Cox’s tweet is as follows:

After recent reported allegations of racism, I followed BYU zone statement and condemned the incident in the strongest possible terms. Subsequently, it appears that neither the school, media, law enforcement nor anyone else in the arena has been able to confirm these allegations. I 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. I appreciate the exhaustive investigation and work conducted by Tom Holmoe and BYU and fully support the school and their efforts to resolve this matter.


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