A controversy involving a racial slur allegedly being directed at a Black college athlete captured the attention of the national media - at least until her claim faced further scrutiny. 

Duke University volleyball player Rachel Richardson went viral after she claimed that a fan from Brigham Young University (BYU) hurled the n-word at her "throughout the entirety of the match" between the two schools on August 26. Her in-the-moment allegation led to the immediate removal and permanent ban of the suspected BYU fan, who was actually a Utah Valley University student, and BYU issued apologies to both Richardson and Duke University.

Except her claim was never corroborated. In fact, it was discredited. 

BYU Police Lt. George Besendorfer told the Salt Lake Tribune that his department reviewed surveillance camera footage of the alleged racist fan from the game, telling the paper, "When we watched the video, we did not observe that behavior from him." 


Besendorfer added that no one from the student section from the crowd has come forward to back up Richardson's claim.  

CNN coverage of Rachel Richardson

CNN offered plenty of on-air coverage to the racial slur claim made by Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson. (CNN)

A BYU police officer present at the game said he did not hear any racial slurs from the crowd, according to police report obtained by Deseret News. The officer suspected the fan in question had special needs and kept shouting about the players hitting the ball into the net. The officer also documented that a "Duke associate" nearby also never raised any concerns. 

BYU Associate Athletic Director Jon McBride offered a similar sentiment in a statement saying, "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… 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."

Despite the numerous revelations that have surfaced since Richardson went public, the most prominent media outlets that promoted her claim have failed to update their coverage. 


Richardson was prominently featured on ABC's "Good Morning America" and was interviewed about what she claimed to have experienced during its broadcast on August 30. 

ABC News correspondent Janai Norman, who spoke with the 19-year-old sophomore, said she was "really impressed" with "how she is handling all of this."

"A lot of grace," co-host George Stephanopoulos reacted. 

"Good Morning America" has made no mention of the incident since that broadcast. 

ABC News' website also published at least three separate articles about Richardson's allegations but none about the most about the ongoing probes that undermine her credibility. 

Fox News reached out to ABC News for comment and received no response. 

ABC report on Rachel Richardson

Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson was interviewed on "Good Morning America" about the alleged racial slur incident. (ABC News)

CNN gave her story far more air-time with separate programs echoing Richardson's unchallenged claims. 

Alisyn Camerota and Victor Blackwell grilled BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe for not taking enough swift action to stop the "racist slurs and threats" immediately.

Weekend anchor Jim Acosta invited on former NAACP president Cornell William Brooks, who spent the interview lambasting BYU's handling of the alleged incident. 

"New Day" co-host Brianna Keilar sat down with the student's father, Marvin Richardson, who gave interviews with numerous outlets including ABC News. 

CNN's website additionally had six individual links on its website about the story, some recapping its on-air coverage, nothing about the investigation's findings. 

A spokesperson for CNN provided no comment. 


ESPN, sister network to ABC News, similarly offered uncritical coverage of the episode. 

"I'm saying BYU- YOU did it!" host Stephen A. Smith shouted. "By allowing this to happen and not addressing expeditiously, not addressing it with a level of quickness and speed that you should've addresses this with."

Smith later called it a "dereliction of duty" and accused the university of fearing the "backlash" it would have received for taking immediate action. 

ESPN host and Duke alum Jay Williams wore a Blue Devils sweatshirt on-air in solidarity with Richardson and gave her a shoutout.

"The way she handled the BYU situation at 19 years old, I just want to say you keep doing your thing," Wlliams told the young athlete. "Hold your head high. And I appreciate her talking bout the perpetrator instead of BYU overall, but I just appreciate her. I wanted to say that." 

NCAA volleyball

NCAA Logos are featured during the Division I Women's Volleyball Semifinals held at PPG Paints Arena on December 19, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Like CNN, ESPN had numerous articles about what transpired on its website except for the recent revelations. 

Additionally, "SportsCenter" offered an update on the controversy on September 3, only to report on the University of South Carolina's decision to cancel its two-game series with BYU because of the alleged incident without mentioning the local reports about the investigation. 


A spokesman for ESPN told Fox News Digital, "The investigation by BYU is continuing, and we are still doing our reporting," later adding that the network is "waiting for the results of the investigation."