August 26, 2022. Smith Fieldhouse, Provo, Utah. Brigham Young University’s Women’s Volleyball team is facing off against Duke, and it’s tight. A record 5,500 fans are cheering in the stands. But one voice rings louder than the others, and it isn’t a cheer. Instead, the lone voice calls out a racial slur toward Duke’s outside hitter, Rachel Richardson. Tweeting after the game, Richardson reflected that she and fellow African-American teammates were “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match. The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe.” She followed the tweet with the hashtag #morethanavolleyballplayer.
While the fan allegedly making the comments was eventually identified and banned from future events, the damage had been done. However, after an investigation conducted by BYU, they determined that no such threats were made. In a statement released on the school’s website, they said, “we reviewed all available video and audio recordings, including security footage from all camera angles taken by BYUtv of the match”. The university lifted the ban of the fan who allegedly yelled the slurs at Richardson. The resulting outcry on social media spread to all over the internet.
In sports as a whole, racism is a serious and prevalent issue. Just in the state of Utah alone, there have been two incidents that have gained nationwide traction. In 2019, then-Oklahoma City Thunder basketball player Russell Westbrook got into an altercation with a Utah Jazz fan after the fan called Westbrook a racial slur. Two years later, three other Utah Jazz fans verbally harassed Tee Morant, the father of opposing player Ja Morant, in an incident that the Jazz organization described as “far beyond a verbal altercation”. This racism extends into college athletics, too. There are countless other examples as well, as in 2018, the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics reported 137 acts of racism in sports internationally, including 52 in the United States alone. While there have been efforts to help fix this, they evidently haven’t been enough. Racism in sports is an issue that desperately needs to be fixed, and this incident is just another example of why the help is needed.