Duke player speaks out after targeted with racial slurs, threats during BYU women’s volleyball game

Rachel Richardson. Player portrait: goduke.com

PROVO, Utah, Aug. 28, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Rachel Richardson, the Duke women’s volleyball starter who was the initial target of racist slurs by one or more audience members at a Friday match, has issued a statement about the incident.

Richardson posted a statement on Twitter, saying racist comments, shouted at her and subsequently at her other Black teammates, made playing her best more difficult. But they also provided a learning opportunity for BYU and other sports programs to review what immediate action can be taken by officials when a fan is targeting players with racist language and physical threats.

Read more about what happened and BYU’s actions here.

Richardson’ full statement appears below:

Friday night in our match against Brigham Young University my fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled through the entirety of the match. The slurs and comments grew into threats, which caused us to feel unsafe. Both the officials and BYU coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game, but failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment. As a result, my teammates and I had to struggle to get through the rest of the game instead of just being able to focus on our playing so we could compete at the highest level possible. They also failed to adequately address the situation immediately following the game when it was brought to their attention again. No athlete, regardless of their race, should ever be subject to such hostile conditions. God has called each of us to be members of one body, while we may have differences, they should never divide us (Romans 12:4-5).

That said, I do not believe this is in any way a reflection of what the BYU athletes stand for. The girls on the team played a great game and showed nothing but respect and good sportsmanship on and off the court. Once notified, the BYU athletic director, Tom Holmoe, was quick to act in a very respectful and genuine manner. He is at the forefront of insuring that the BYU athletic staff and players undergo education and training to better handle and prevent racist, ignorant, and asinine behavior that were exhibited by their fans during the match.

It is neither my nor Duke Volleyball’s goal to call BYU’s athletics out, but rather to call them up. This is not the first time this has happened in college athletics, and sadly, it likely will not be the last time. However, each time it happens we as student athletes, coaches, fans and administrators have a chance to educate those who act in hateful ways. This is an opportunity to dig deep into closed cultures which tolerate amoral racists acts, such as those exhibited Friday night, and change them for the better. It is not enough to indicate that you are not racists, instead you must demonstrate you are anti-racist.

My team and I were fortunate enough to go through “A Long Talk,” which is an educational series on the roots of racism and how to be an activist in not just dealing with racism, but preventing and ending it. This helped to equip us to deal with the situation in a mature manner rather than to react in a retaliatory manner.

I want to express my gratitude to the Duke Athletics Administration for being quick to act on my team’s behalf. Additionally, I’d like to thank my coaching staff and teammates for immediately dealing with the situation to the best of their ability the minute they were made aware of it. Further, I would like to thank anyone who has reached out to make me aware that you stand with us.

Finally, I understand some people would have liked more to happen in the moment, such as an immediate protest and refusal to play on. Although the heckling eventually took a mental toll on me, I refused to allow it to stop me from doing what I love to do and what I came to BYU to do, which was play volleyball. I refused to allow those racist bigots to feel any degree of satisfaction from thinking their commends had “gotten to me.” So I pushed through and finished the game. Therefore, on behalf of my African American teammates and I, we do not want to receive pity or be looked at as helpless. We do not feel as through we are victims of some tragic unavoidable event. We are proud to be young African American women; we are proud to be Duke student athletes, and we are proud to stand up against racism. — Rachel Richardson


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