BYU says it cannot corroborate allegations of racial slurs at volleyball game, ending investigation

In a statement Friday, the school also noted that it had lifted the ban on a fan accused of shouting the N-word.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fans cheer during the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse in Provo for the volleyball game between Brigham Young University and Utah State University on Sept. 1, 2022. BYU said Friday, September 9, 2022, that it could not substantiate claims that a Duke volleyball player was called the N-word during a game on August 26.

Brigham Young University concluded its investigation into allegations of racism at a volleyball game last month, saying it could not corroborate claims that a Duke player was named the N-word .

In a statement Friday, the Provo School said it thoroughly reviewed surveillance video from the game and found no evidence that a fan shouted insults at Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, such as she said she heard him “very distinctly”.

It’s a reversal for BYU, which previously had no doubts about the veracity of Richardson’s account, despite many pillorying her on social media for weeks.

“Some will assume that we are selective in our review,” the BYU statement added. “On the contrary, we have tried to be as thorough as possible in our investigation, and we renew our invitation to anyone with evidence contrary to our conclusions to come forward and share it.”

Accusations of racism among his fans had thrust BYU into the national spotlight and divided the community. On August 27, the day after the game against Duke at the Provo campus, Richardson’s godmother first posted on social media that the player had been called racist names.

Another school has since called off a basketball game against BYU, citing safety concerns for its players. And BYU athletics officials have stepped forward to categorically disavow racism and take steps to address it.

This included banning the fan who was identified by Duke for approaching a player after the game, making her feel uncomfortable and for allegedly shouting the slurs. Discipline broke down, however, when BYU campus police said in a report that they reviewed surveillance footage from the game and the banned fan did not appear to be shouting insults.

In Friday’s statement, the school said it has reinstated that ventilator.

“BYU sincerely apologizes to this fan for the hardship the ban has caused,” the university said.

The police report from the school, which is operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also contradicted Richardson’s account of what happened.

Richardson and his father spoke about what the player described as a taunting attack. Richardson, who is the only black starter on the Duke team, said she heard a “very loud and negative racial slur” coming from the student section while she was serving.

Richardson said she alerted the Duke coaching staff immediately after hearing the insults in the second set. At that time, Duke coaches notified BYU officials and coaches, she said.

According to the BYU police report, BYU administrators notified a campus police officer of the issue during the third set of the game and elected to place an officer near the Duke bench before the fourth set. No one identified the person making the insults at the time, the officer said.

But while Richardson said the insults increased during the fourth set, the officer said he didn’t hear anything inappropriate as he visibly stood there listening.

The police department said no students came forward to report hearing someone near them shouting the slurs. And no other player on the Duke team has spoken about it.

A reserve player told The News & Observer in North Carolina that she personally didn’t hear anything screaming.

Duke freshman Christina Barrow, who along with Richardson is one of four black players on the team, said: “Rachel was the first to tell all of us. And even in the beginning when she heard it for the first time, she was a little confused like, ‘Did I just hear that?’ And then when she heard it a second, third time in a row, she was like, “Oh, I definitely hear that.” And that’s when we educated our coaches on everything.

No other player has spoken publicly about the incident.

The Salt Lake Tribune will update this developing story.

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