Witnesses have reportedly come forward saying no racial slurs were heard during the BYU-Duke women’s volleyball match last Friday, in which Duke’s Rachel Richardson, the only Black starter for the Blue Devils, said she was heckled throughout "the entirety of the match."

Richardson said in a statement that BYU officials were not quick enough to address the situation upon the initial grievance from the Duke bench. BYU noted that the fan, who the Salt Lake Tribune said was a Utah Valley University student sitting in the student section, was banned from all athletic venues on campus. 

The BYU Cougar Chronicle — a conservative-leaning student newspaper at the university — said "a source inside the BYU athletic department" said: "Ms. Richardson complained of hearing a racial slur during the second set but didn’t not point anyone out. Officials discussed briefly and stationed policemen there…there were no more complaints until after the match."


NCAA Logos are featured during the Division I Women's Volleyball Semifinals held at PPG Paints Arena on December 19, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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)

The Chronicle spoke to several students seated in the student section during the game that claimed they "heard absolutely nothing," and that the banned fan did not yell a racial slur before being escorted out of the game. 

A BYU spokesperson told Fox News Digital what they can confirm about the incident at Smith Fieldhouse last Friday:

- Right before the start of the third game, Duke first brought up that a racial slur had been heard.

- No individual was identified.

- Four event staff members were dispatched to speak with the student section and one uniformed officer.

- There were no complaints made by Duke for the remainder of the match.

Duke did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment.


The fan was escorted out of Smith Fieldhouse due to "interfering with guests," not for shouting racial slurs, said the BYU Athletics official. 

BYU officials said that several athletic employees have been going through footage of the game and have yet to find any evidence of racial slurs being shouted. 

Duke Blue Devil flag

A detail image of the Duke Blue Devils flag during the national anthem before the game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Villanova Wildcats during the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal at Caesars Superdome on April 2, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

"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 officials said in a statement. "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."

An investigation is still ongoing as BYU police Lt. George Besendorfer confirmed the initial footage didn’t show the person banned shouting anything while Richardson was serving. 

There is also the police report from BYU police Det. Sgt. Richard Laursen, who stood next to the banned fan throughout the fourth set, saying the man may have "(A)sparger syndrome or could have autism," per the Deseret News.


The BYU athletics official also told the BYU student-led newspaper the man was mentally challenged. 

"When a mentally challenged fan approached a Duke player, the Duke team then suddenly recognized the handicapped man's ‘voice’ as the same one shouting slurs," the BYU Athletics official told the Chronicle. "They never saw or pointed out a face, just a voice. They banned this man. Not for slurs, but for interfering with visiting guests. BYU Athletics staff went through footage of the entire game and the man Duke identified was never seated in the student section. Her story doesn't add up, BYU banned an innocent man to appease the mob and make their PR mess go away. While I don't know if Ms. Richardson genuinely misheard something or intentionally made up this story, it certainly does not constitute the criticism BYU has gotten. There is zero evidence of a slur being said. Not a single witness, besides Ms. Richardson, has come forth. Not a single cell phone video or BYUtv's several camera angles caught a single thing. How unlikely when this person supposedly said a slur during ‘every single serve.'"

BYU bleachers

General view of LaVell Edwards Stadium prior to the game between the Utah Utes and the Brigham Young Cougars on Sept. 9, 2017 in Provo, Utah.  (Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, alleged in a tweet that the volleyball player was called a racial slur "every time she served." Pamplin also tweeted that Richardson was threatened by a white male that told her to "watch her back going to the team bus."

A threatening voicemail was also left for a BYU coach on Sunday, according to a police report obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune. The same police report said Duke coaches identified the man banned as the one who allegedly shouted the n-word at Richardson from the student section. 

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe asked students to come forward with information they have on the incident.

The university released a statement this past Saturday, saying, "BYU Athletics is completely committed to leading out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice of any kind and rooting out racism."

BYU seats

General view of LaVell Edwards Stadium prior to the game between the Utah Utes and the Brigham Young Cougars on Sept. 9, 2017 in Provo, Utah. (Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

"To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a small number of fans in last night’s volleyball match in the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not strong enough language. We will not tolerate behavior of this kind."

Richardson spoke on ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" on Tuesday and claimed that by the fourth set, the slurs had escalated. 

"Even my Black teammates who were on the bench, who don’t play, they were being called out, pointed at, and it was really confusing as to why. That’s when the racial slurs and heckling just grew more and more intense," she said.


"We stand against any form of racism, bigotry or hatred," Duke volleyball said in a statement on Sunday. "As a program we have worked extensively to create an inclusive and safe environment where our student-athletes feel heard and supported but are not naïve to the fact that there is always work to be done."