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BYU apologizes to a banned fan, saying it found no proof they yelled racial slurs

Brigham Young University's athletics department says it "sincerely apologizes" to the fan who was banned for allegedly yelling racist slurs at volleyball players from visiting Duke University.
Google Earth/Screenshot by NPR
Brigham Young University's athletics department says it "sincerely apologizes" to the fan who was banned for allegedly yelling racist slurs at volleyball players from visiting Duke University.

Brigham Young University has apologized to a fan it banned for allegedly shouting racist slurs at Black volleyball players visiting from Duke University, saying the school's investigation found no proof of racial heckling or slurs.

The school had previously said it had not turned up any proof of the fan's guilt. Responding to BYU's latest announcement, Duke's top athletics official says she stands by her players.

BYU says it has concluded its investigation

Announcing the findings of its inquiry, BYU Athletics said last week that it went to great lengths to find moments in which the fan in question or anyone else might have yelled slurs during the match. The effort included a review of numerous records, it said, including match video from the school's broadcast outlet with the commentators' audio track removed, and video footage from security cameras.

"We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event," from fans and BYU personnel to Duke's players and team staff, the department said.

"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, adding that it would not tolerate such conduct.

The fan who was banned isn't a student at BYU, although they had been in the court-level students' section that is near the visitors' bench in Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah.

"We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity," the department said. "BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused."

Allegations of racist slurs quickly sparked a debate

Some 5,500 people attended the high-profile matchup between BYU and Duke on Aug. 26, according to attendance statistics cited by BYU TV.

The incident drew national attention, as Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson said that she and other Black athletes "were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match."

After BYU shared its conclusions, Duke University vice president athletics director Nina King issued a statement affirming her support for Richardson and her teammates and praising them for the way they represent their school.

"We unequivocally stand with and champion them, especially when their character is called into question," King said. "Duke Athletics believes in respect, equality and inclusiveness, and we do not tolerate hate and bias."

Outside of the circle of people with direct knowledge of the incident, discussion of the allegations quickly became politicized. People who support Richardson say she sparked a deeper look at racism in college athletics, while critics accuse her of fabricating the episode.

In BYU Athletics' announcement of its findings, it stated, "Our fight is against racism, not against any individual or any institution." It reiterated its call for anyone who was at the event to come forward if they have proof that racist remarks were made.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.