Banned BYU fan was not seen yelling racial slurs at Duke volleyball player, police say

Upon further review, the man who was banned from all BYU athletic venues does not appear to be the person who allegedly yelled racial slurs at Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson, a BYU police spokesperson told the Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday.

In an incident that has grabbed headlines nationwide, Richardson and her family complained of a fan yelling the N-word at her and her Black teammates from the BYU student section during a match in Provo on Friday. After the match, they said the fan approached her and told her to watch her back as the Duke players returned to the team bus.

BYU soon announced the fan identified by Duke had been banned and noted he was not a BYU student. Per the Tribune, the fan was a Utah Valley University student. Apparently, he acknowledged to police that he approached Richardson after the match, but only because he thought she was a friend of his who played for BYU (the two programs share colors). He also claimed he only yelled that the players “shouldn’t hit the ball into the net.”

Later, Duke players and coaches reportedly identified the man as the same person who was allegedly yelling the slurs at Richardson. An initial review of surveillance footage of the crowd didn't turn up any evidence that the man was the fan yelling the slurs as the Black Duke players served.

From the Tribune:

An officer later reviewed footage, according to the report, and wrote: “There was nothing seen on the game film that led me to believe” that the man “was the person who was making comments to the player who complained about being called the N-word.”

During the match’s second set, the officer observed, the UVU student was not present when Richardson was serving, which is when Richardson’s family and Duke officials said the slurs were yelled. And later, when she was serving again, he was playing on his phone, the officer wrote.

The revelation raises the possibility there was a second person allegedly shouting the slurs, but police reportedly are no longer reviewing the footage. That job has since been turned over to the BYU athletics and communication staff.

BYU has reportedly not said it doubts Richardson's account of the events and is still investigating the incident. The police spokesperson told the Tribune no one from the student section or anywhere else in the arena had come forward to report the person responsible for the alleged slurs.

BYU officer said he didn't hear slurs during Duke volleyball incident

There is reportedly some divergence between the accounts of the Duke players and the BYU officer on the scene. In an interview with ESPN, Richardson said she told the Duke coaching staff she heard the slurs after the second set:

She said she told her coaches about the incident between games, and the teams switched ends of the floor. She said she saw her coaches talking with BYU officials, who she thought acted on the incident. "We were told someone was speaking to the student section and I was all right, so, and that was the end of it," Richardson said. "And we played our third set on the opposite side of the net from them."

In the fourth set, she said the "atmosphere of the student section had changed." Richardson called the alleged slurs and heckling from the crowd "more extreme, more intense."

The account of the officer responsible for the police report conflicts with that sequence of events. Per the Tribune, the officer said in his report that he did not personally hear the alleged slurs after being alerted by BYU and heard only BYU fans calling Duke players by their first names.

The officer also reportedly said he talked to others who had not heard a slur.

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told CNN that BYU sent four ushers and an officer into the stands to look for the person allegedly yelling the slurs, but were apparently unsuccessful. The only public video evidence of the alleged slurs appears to be a pair of Duke players distracted by something in the crowd in the fourth set while Richardson was serving. The video does not pick up anyone yelling the alleged slur.

Rachel Richardson criticized BYU staff after incident

The immediate aftermath of the incident saw Richardson's godmother and father providing their accounts of what happened. Richardson released a statement Sunday affirming their account and criticizing the officials and coaching staff for failing to act:

“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 to 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 that 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.”

Per the Tribune, Richardson has praised the BYU players for their support following the incident, but her father claimed BYU volleyball coach Heather Olmstead stood her up for a meeting the next day.

Richardson also praised Holmoe in her statement as acting in "a very respectful and genuine manner" and called the incident "a chance to educate those who act in hateful ways."

SALEM, VA - APRIL 24: The official game ball sits on the court during a break in the game between Carthage College and Benedictine University during the Division III Men
A police officer appears to be disputing Rachel Richardson's account of the slurs allegedly yelled at her during the Duke-BYU volleyball match. (Photo by Keith Lucas/NCAA Photos/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
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