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Brigham Young University (BYU) banned a spectator from attending future events at any of its sports venues after an incident in which racial slurs were directed toward Black Duke players during a volleyball match on its campus Friday night.
In a statement issued Saturday, university officials said the banned spectator is not a BYU student but was sitting in the student section throughout the match.
A crowd of 5,507, a record for a volleyball match at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse, attended the match, according to Raleigh’s News & Observer.
BYU states they have a “zero-tolerance” for racism as its fans tolerated it throughout the match.
“It wasn’t until after the game when an individual was pointed out by Duke,” BYU spokesman Jon McBride said. “That individual received the ban. The Duke team nor our staff could not identify others, but we recognize their assertion that they heard others. Duke sophomore outside hitter Rachel Richardson, who is Black, released a statement Sunday saying she and her Black teammates were “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match.” Richardson said the slurs and comments “grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe.”
“First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes,” Duke athletics director Nina King said in part in a statement.
King continued, “We want BYU athletic events to provide a safe environment for all and there is no place for behaviors like this in our venues.” She said more than one Duke player felt the effects of the incident, which led to Duke’s insistence on relocating Saturday’s match, which BYU successfully assisted in making happen. “We are appreciative of the support from BYU’s athletic administration as we navigate this troubling situation,” King said.
Being “saddened” and “disgusted” does nothing to stop racism.
On Saturday night, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued a statement on Twitter denouncing the fan who used the racial slur and the way the situation was handled. “I’m disgusted that this behavior is happening and deeply saddened if others didn’t step up to stop it,” Cox said in part.
On Sunday, Duke president Vince Price released a statement condemning the events and promising support for the team in the coming days. “I am outraged by the racist slurs and taunts directed at members of our volleyball team at BYU this weekend,” Price said. “Duke is fully committed to providing a safe, inclusive environment for competition, and we will not tolerate any racism or harassment of our student-athletes, coaches, staff, or fans.”
Utah has been racist towards Black players for some time now.
Much like the city of Boston, the state of Utah has gained a reputation of its own among Black athletes. Just last year, three fans were banned indefinitely by the Utah Jazz for making vulgar and racist comments towards Memphis Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant’s parents.
Tee Morant said one fan made a sexually explicit remark to his wife, Jamie. Tee Morant, who was sitting a couple of seats over, confronted the man before security deescalated the situation, ejecting the Jazz fan.
According to Tee Morant, another Jazz fan told him, “I’ll put a nickel in your back and watch you dance, boy.” The third fan who was ejected yelled at Jamie Morant, “Shut the f— up, b—-,” according to ESPN.
Also in 2021, a Utah judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed against Russell Westbrook and the Utah Jazz after a March 11, 2019, game in Salt Lake City between the Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder. At that time an altercation between Westbrook — then playing for Oklahoma City — and two fans resulted in the fans being indefinitely banned from the arena after making “racial” comments toward him.
Gail Miller, then-owner of the Utah Jazz, pleaded with her community shortly after, stating, “This should never happen. We are not a racist community,” Miller said. “We have a code of conduct in this arena. It will be strictly enforced.”
In the same vein as Andre 3000’s quote, “If you say real talk I probably won’t trust you,” if you have to publicly proclaim not to be a racist community, chances are that’s exactly what you are.
It doesn’t mean all or most, but recurring instances of racism by residents of Utah prove over and over again that overt racism has been embedded there and its people feel emboldened to spew their hateful sentiments in broad daylight among other likeminded racists without fear of reprisal.
As Dr. Rashad Richey of TYT’s Indisputable often says, “culture trumps policy,” and when the people of Utah have allowed racism to fester for years, regardless of written policies, its people will and have ultimately dictated the type of culture they have. And the culture of Utah has been racially ignitable for years towards Black professional athletes.
Solely documenting that racism is not permitted in bylaws will not discourage nor dissuade racism. Actions – not words – are needed to stem the tide of the recurring racism athletes of all levels experience in Utah and until its culture is addressed, fans, white men in particular, will continue to racially harass and heckle Black athletes.
Though one spectator may have been kicked out of their venues, it was reported that many others also joined in the racist heckles against Duke’s Black volleyball players. Much like back in the day, it only took one or two white men to pull the rope and watch our ancestors become strange fruit, but the hundreds and thousands of white men, women, and children in attendance who casually approved spoke volumes then and it continues to speak deafening volumes today.