A Brigham Young University fan accused of yelling a racial slur at an opposing player during a volleyball game appears to have been wrongfully accused, authorities said.
In a statement shared to Twitter on Saturday, the BYU athletic department said it had identified a fan who allegedly yelled the n-word at a Duke University player. The department said the fan was subsequently banned from all BYU sporting events.
“When a student-athlete or a fan comes to a BYU sporting event, we expect that they will be treated with love and respect and feel safe on our campus,” the statement said.
“It is for this reason BYU has banned a fan who was identified by Duke during last night’s volleyball match from all BYU athletic venues.”
The statement added the fan was not a BYU student even though they were sitting in the student section.
Official statement from BYU Athletics. pic.twitter.com/5bIwXNwr7J
— BYU Cougars (@BYUCougars) August 27, 2022
Yet three days after this statement, The Salt Lake Tribune reported the case may not be what it initially appeared.
On Tuesday, BYU Police Lt. George Besendorfer told the outlet he did not believe the person who was banned had been yelling slurs during the match.
“When we watched the video, we did not observe that behavior from him,” Besendorfer said.
Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson said she “very distinctly” heard a “very strong and negative racial slur” while serving in the match on Friday, the Tribune reported.
While BYU did not directly dispute the allegation, the university said the fan identified by Duke as the offender appeared to be innocent.
“Various BYU Athletics employees have been reviewing video from BYUtv and other cameras in the facility that the volleyball team has access to for film review,” BYU Associate Athletic Director Jon McBride said.
“This has been ongoing since right after the match on Friday night. The person who was banned was the person identified by Duke as using racial slurs. However, we have been unable to find any evidence of that person using slurs in the match.”
This apparent mistake shows the danger of believing allegations on the surface without waiting for details to substantiate them. Sadly, this practice has become all too common in the United States.
Especially in the context of racism or hate crimes, many Americans are afraid of the backlash they will receive if they question allegations of racism made by a minority. As a result, they blindly believe the allegations are 100 percent true, often before taking the time to investigate them.
It may be that someone yelled a racial slur at Richardson, and if so, that person ought to be severely reprimanded. With that said, the university’s own review has seemingly proved the individual accused of yelling slurs did not do so.
If BYU had taken time to investigate the allegations before banning the fan, they could have saved both themselves and the fan from embarrassment. Instead, they decided to take action against the fan before the details were clear, and that action now appears to have been unjust.
According to a police report, an anonymous individual called and left a threatening voicemail for a BYU coach one day after the alleged racism incident, the Tribune reported. The report provided no further details about the coach or the anonymous message, adding yet another layer of mystery to the case.
The report also said Richardson’s family alleged she was approached by a white man after the match who told her to watch her back. Duke coaches and players said the fan who approached Richardson was the same one yelling slurs during the match.
When police talked to the fan, he denied yelling any slurs. He said he did approach Richardson after the game, but he did so because he thought she was a friend of his on the BYU team. The report noted the two schools wear the same colors.
The case clearly has many moving parts, and there may be more than one person involved in the alleged misconduct against Richardson. There is also a chance the alleged slurs were never uttered in the first place.
All these questions deserve to be answered by an investigation, and that is what BYU officials should have started in the first place. Instead, they banned a fan before completing an investigation, and they might now be forced to face their mistakes.
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