Racial Slur During College Volleyball Game Leads to Fan Suspension

A Brigham Young University fan was banned and a women’s volleyball game on Saturday was moved to a different location after a Duke University player who is Black was called a racial slur during a game on Friday.

Statements released by both universities did not make clear precisely what happened on Friday night. The universities did not clarify the nature or extent of the ban.

But Lesa Pamplin, who described herself as the godmother of the Duke volleyball player, said on Twitter that her goddaughter was the only Black starter on the team and that she was repeatedly called a racial slur while she was serving.

“She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus,” Ms. Pamplin wrote. “A police officer had to be put by their bench.”

Marvin Richardson, the father of the Duke player, said his daughter cried to him over the phone on Friday night about the episode. Mr. Richardson, who grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, during desegregation, told her she had the support of her family, friends and team.

“Here we are,” he said in an interview on Saturday. “It’s 2022, and we’re dealing with 1960s issues.”

In a statement, the B.Y.U. athletics department said that the fan who was banned was sitting in the university’s student section during the game at George Albert Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah, but was not a student.

The statement said that B.Y.U. was “extremely disheartened” by the actions of “a small number of fans” and that “the use of a racial slur at any of our athletic events is absolutely unacceptable.”

“We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its student-athletes competing last night for what they experienced,” the statement said.

B.Y.U., a predominantly white university that has a student population that is less than 1 percent Black, has struggled with creating an inclusive environment for its students of color, according to a February 2021 report by a university committee that studied race on campus.

The report found that the university lacked in institutional support for its small community of students of color, failed to recruit and retain a diverse student body, and had a faculty that had a fraction of the diversity of the national average, with fewer than 7 percent of faculty members being people of color.

In a statement, Duke University said officials moved the game on Saturday against Rider University to a different location in Provo to create the safest atmosphere for both teams.

The game, which was set to be open only to staff and family members, is part of the same tournament, the doTERRA Classic, in which B.Y.U. played Duke. B.Y.U. won 3 games to 1.

“First and foremost, our priority is the well-being of Duke student-athletes,” Nina King, Duke’s vice president and director of athletics, said in a statement. “They should always have the opportunity to compete in an inclusive, anti-racist environment which promotes equality and fair play.”

Both universities did not immediately return messages on Saturday.

McKenna Oxenden contributed reporting and Jack Begg contributed research.

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