(DURHAM, N.C.) — A Duke University women’s volleyball player targeted by a fan using hateful, racial slurs while playing a game against Brigham Young University calls the incident an “opportunity” to curate a healthy environment for Black people in collegiate athletics.
Rachel Richardson, a sophomore at Duke, said she’s not angered by the situation that occurred at last Friday’s game, but would rather show compassion and educate people using her platform to spread awareness for similar incidents in the future.
“I’m not the first person, I’m not the last person,” Richardson told ABC News Tuesday. “This isn’t an isolated incident, but it’s an opportunity for not just me, but for anyone who has an opinion, anyone who has a voice to decide that it should be the last time.”
Richardson heard the slur “every time she served,” according to former Texas county prosecutor Lesa Pamplin, who is running for county judge and said Richardson is her goddaughter in a tweet posted on Saturday.
“She 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,” Pamplin tweeted. “Not one freaking adult did anything to protect her.”
Richardson didn’t condemn BYU for this incident, but singled out the alleged perpetrator.
“I know a lot of times when things like this happen, the perpetrators are met with anger. And that’s not what I want to happen in this moment,” Richardson said. “I don’t think that all of BYU should be condemned because grouping all of BYU together with the few students or non-students that were doing it would be the same thing that those people did to me, like viewing all Black people as less than. And I don’t want to sit down to a level.”
The fan, who was not a student, was sitting in the BYU student section, and was identified by Duke during the game, according to BYU. The fan has since been banned from all BYU athletic venues.
“To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a small number of fans in last night’s volleyball game in the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not strong enough language,” BYU said in a statement. “We will not tolerate behavior of this kind. Specifically, the use of a racial slur at any of our athletic events is absolutely unacceptable and BYU Athletics holds a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior. We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its student-athletes competing last night for what they experienced.”
BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe, spoke out following the incident involving Richardson, telling their supporters to “not cross the line where you would hurt or harm anyone in any way,” and is taking the necessary steps to better educate his staff and student-athletes on ways to handle inappropriate behavior from fans in the future.
Although Holmoe spoke out against the racism, Richardson posted a statement on Twitter Sunday, claiming officials and BYU coaching staff were aware of what was happening during the game but failed to stop the fan and end the behavior.
“This is an opportunity to dig deep into closed cultures which tolerate amoral racist acts, such as those exhibited Friday night, and change them for the better,” Richardson said Sunday. “It is not enough to indicate that you are not racist, instead you must demonstrate that you are anti-racist.”
Nina King, Duke University Vice President & Director of Athletics, said Friday’s alleged incident is unacceptable and all players should be able to compete in a safe environment.
“Duke student-athletes should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment which promotes equality and fair play,” King said in a statement on Saturday.
As for Richardson, she plans to continue making strides and serving nets on the volleyball court and to continue spreading light and compassion on and off the court.
“It’s not that you’re just a terrible person because you made that mistake the one time, it’s that you’re ignorant and that you need to be educated,” Richardson said. “Hopefully, that person can also meet you with compassion, open their heart, and be willing to learn and be willing to share what they’ve learned, because that’s how it happens. You know, it starts with one place and then it spreads.”
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