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Banned Fan Vindicated After Final Results of Investigation of Alleged Racism at Duke Volleyball Game Are Announced

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A Duke University volleyball player’s claim that a fan racially abused her during an Aug. 26 contest at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, doesn’t line up with the evidence, BYU officials said Friday.

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson claimed she heard a spectator call her a racial slur as she served in match last month.

In an Aug. 28 statement on Twitter, Richardson said that “my fellow African-American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match. The slurs and comments grew into threats, which caused us to feel unsafe.”

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A day after the match, BYU condemned the alleged racial taunts, saying in a statement, “We wholeheartedly apologize to Duke University and especially its student-athletes competing last night for what they experienced.”

It also said an unidentified fan had been banned from all university athletic venues.

On Friday, however, BYU offered another apology — to the fan who had been banned.

Was Richardson telling the truth?

BYU Athletics said in a statement that an investigation into Richardson’s claims had yielded no evidence to support them.

“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,” the university said. “As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation.

“As a result of our investigation, we have lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match. We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity. BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.”

The university indicated the investigation was very thorough.

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“We reviewed all available video and audio recordings, including security footage and raw footage from all camera angles taken by BYUtv of the match, with broadcasting audio removed (to ensure that the noise from the stands could be heard more clearly),” BYU Athletics said in the statement.

“We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event: Duke athletic department personnel and student-athletes, BYU athletic department personnel and student-athletes, event security and management and fans who were in the arena that evening, including many of the fans in the on-court student section,” it said.

The BYU investigation came to the same conclusion reached by an earlier police probe.

Lt. George Besendorfer said university police reviewed camera footage of the game and couldn’t find any evidence of the banned fan shouting at Richardson as she served, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Aug. 31.

“When we watched the video, we did not observe that behavior from him,” Besendorfer said.

BYU Associate Athletic Director Jon McBride also indicated at that time that evidence didn’t corroborate the story after the fan was banned at Duke’s behest, according to the Tribune.

“The person who was banned was the person identified by Duke as using racial slurs,” he said. “However, we have been unable to find any evidence of that person using slurs in the match.”

An officer who reviewed camera footage determined that the banned man wasn’t even present when Richardson said she heard the racial slur, according to the Tribune.

He was observed playing on his phone when Richardson served at a later point in the contest.

In addition, Duke freshman Christina Barrow, one of four black players for the Blue Devils, had told The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, in an interview that she didn’t hear any slurs during the match in Utah.

In spite of all that, Nina King, Duke’s director of athletics, said in a statement Friday that said she stands with the volleyball team.

“The 18 members of the Duke University volleyball team are exceptionally strong women who represent themselves, their families, and Duke University with the utmost integrity,” King said. “We unequivocally stand with and champion them, especially when their character is called into question.

“Duke Athletics believes in respect, equality and inclusiveness, and we do not tolerate hate and bias.”

The message ended with the hashtag “HateWontLiveHere.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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