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BYU says it has no proof that the fan banned over racist slurs said them

Brigham Young University officials say they have no evidence that a fan whom the university had banned from entering its athletic facilities had used a racist slur during a recent women's volleyball game against Duke University.
Google Earth/Screenshot by NPR
Brigham Young University officials say they have no evidence that a fan whom the university had banned from entering its athletic facilities had used a racist slur during a recent women's volleyball game against Duke University.

A man who was banned from Brigham Young University's athletic facilities after a racist incident during a recent volleyball game may not be the person who shouted slurs during the match, BYU officials say.

The slurs marred a high-profile matchup between BYU and Duke last Friday, an early showdown that drew some 5,500 people to Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, according to attendance statistics cited by BYU TV.

"The person who was banned was the person identified by Duke as using racial slurs," BYU Associate Athletic Director Jon McBride said in a statement quoted by the Salt Lake City Tribune.

McBride said BYU Athletics staffers have been combing through the school's video recordings of the match to find anyone responsible.

"However, we have been unable to find any evidence of that person using slurs in the match," he said.

Similarly, BYU Police Lt. George Besendorfer told the Tribune that his agency did not find proof that the man yelled slurs, after reviewing video records.

News of the racial slurs became public after the match and drew national attention over the weekend, as Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson said that she and other Black athletes "were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match."

In the aftermath of the incident, BYU Athletics issued an apology and said it has banned a fan had from all its athletic venues after Duke's team identified him as the culprit.

"Although this fan was sitting in BYU's student section, this person is not a BYU student," the athletic department said.

As video of the raucous match shows, the student section at Smith Fieldhouse extends down to court-level, alongside the visiting players' bench area. Footage of Duke players serving shows that they often did so with a mass of BYU students yelling at them, just feet away.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.