(NewsNation) — Brigham Young University Athletics said it could not find evidence to corroborate an allegation that someone yelled a racial slur at a Black volleyball player from Duke University during a game.
“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,” BYU Athletics said in a statement.
To review the allegations, BYU Athletics said it reached out to more than 50 people who were at the game, including: Duke athletic department personnel and student-athletes; BYU athletic department personnel and student-athletes; event security and management, as well as fans. It also looked at surveillance footage “from all camera angles” from the game, and removed broadcasting audio to better hear noise from the stands.
“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,” BYU said.
Last month, Rachel Richardson, a 19-year-old sophomore player and outside hitter, said she and her teammates were “targeted and racially heckled” during a match.
“The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe,” Richardson said in a statement on Twitter.
Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, was the first to bring attention to the allegations, posting on social media that her goddaughter was called a slur every time she served. Pamplin, who is running for a local judgeship position, was not in attendance at the game.
In response, Brigham Young University banned a person, identified by Duke, sitting in the fan section from all future events, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. However, the school said in a statement Friday that it found no evidence that the banned person was responsible. That ban has since been lifted.
“BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused,” BYU Athletics said in the statement.
Tad Walch, a reporter with the Deseret News, wrote in an article that a police report showed a BYU officer stationed near the Duke volleyball team’s bench did not hear any racial slurs.
“In our initial reporting in the days after this incident took place, we talked to some students, we talked to some administrators, but most people didn’t want to go on the record at that point,” Walch told NewsNation in an interview. “I didn’t feel comfortable being able to corroborate the report. … Just that at that point we couldn’t find anything.”
In her own statement Friday after BYU announced its findings, Duke athletic director Nina King said she is standing with Richardson.
“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.”
Others have softened their initial comments on what happened at the August game.
“It appears that neither the school, media, law enforcement nor anyone else in the arena has been able to confirm these allegations,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said on Twitter. Although Cox in the tweet said he condemned racism, he added “it’s important to step back and acknowledge new facts as they come to light.”