Late last week, officials with the Brigham Young University athletic program announced that it had investigated itself and found no evidence to support a Duke University volleyball player’s claims that she had been the target of racial slurs during a match between the two schools last month.

After the August 26 match at Smith’s Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah, Duke student-athlete Rachel Richardson criticized BYU officials and staff who failed to immediately address a stream of racial slurs and comments that she said targeted her and other African American members of the team.

The INDY could not immediately reach Richardson for comment, but soon after the BYU announcement on Friday, “#rachelrichardsonlied” started trending  on social media.

Soon after BYU’s findings were made public, what followed were comments posted on Twitter by people who did not believe the sophomore volleyball player’s account of what happened.

“Not surprised,” one person wrote. “If this turns out to be a hoax, then it’s just another in a long line of people manufacturing oppression and discrimination for personal motives.”

“The moral here is that BYU (think about that) is willing to throw their students and fans under the bus rather than dare to question a claim which, so far, has been completely contradicted by objective evidence,” wrote another.

“This was Jussie Smollett on a volleyball court,” someone else wrote. “Duke should be ashamed.”

But far from being “ashamed,” on late Friday morning after BYU announced its findings, Nina King, Duke University’s athletic director, released a statement that indicated the school fully supports Richardson and her teammates.

“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 wrote in a statement made public Friday just after 11:00 a.m. “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.”  

King added, “#HateWontLiveHere.”

As the INDY previously reported, Richardson issued a statement made public two days after a volleyball match between the two schools August 26.

Richardson wrote that “the slurs and comments” targeting her and her teammates “caused us to feel unsafe.”

“Both the officials and and BYU staff were made aware of the incident during the game, but failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment,” wrote Richardson, who later added that the officials and BYU staff “also failed to adequately address the situation immediately following the game when it was brought to their attention again.”

One day after the incident, BYU officials issued an apology to Duke and its student-athletes who participated in Friday’s match. BYU officials also announced that the noxious fan had been permanently barred from all of the school’s athletic venues.

“At last night’s game, there was some egregious and hurtful slurs that were directed at members of the Duke University women’s volleyball team,” BYU athletics director Tom Holmoe said the next day while speaking to fans in attendance for a Saturday volleyball match at Smith Fieldhouse.

But in a statement posted Friday and updated Sunday, BYU athletics officials said that following an “extensive review,” the school did not find “any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event.”

BYU officials in the statement explained that the school’s commitment to taking any claims of racism seriously prompted their investigation into Richardson’s claims that “racial heckling and slurs” took place at the match.

School officials said they “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 officials also announced that the school had “lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match,” and apologized “for any hardship the ban has caused.” 

BYU officials say they also “reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event,” including “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.”

Moreover, the BYU student newspaper, the Cougar Chronicle reported that its reporters had spoken with nearly a half dozen people seated in the student section during the volleyball match, and was “unable to find a source in the student section that can corroborate Richardson’s claim of racial slurs being yelled at her,” according to a story that appeared in the August 30 edition of the student paper. 

The Cougar Chronicle also took aim at Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, who drew attention to the story before Richardson’s statement by Tweeting “While playing yesterday [my Goddaughter] was called a n***** every time she served. She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus.” 

According to her website, Pamplin is a former police officer, prosecutor, and defense attorney who is currently campaigning for a judicial seat in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Cougar Chronicle reported that “Pamplin even claimed credit for making the story national news in an official campaign statement on the incident,” reporting that Pamplin asserted that the public “should be even more outraged that it took a Tweet from me, in Tarrant County Texas, to bring this incident to light.” 

Pamplin could not be reached for comment to the INDY, however, the Duke Chronicle last week reported that made a statement to the Salt Lake Tribune on Friday after BYU officials made public its findings.

“BYU’s statement today does not change my position,” Pamplin said. “In fact, the statement and the ‘findings’ are in keeping with what I — and many others — anticipated. Daily across America, the burden of proof — in instances like these involving people of color, as well as marginalized people, economically disadvantaged people, and disempowered people — is shifted unfairly and without hesitation.”

Pamplin added:

“It is an unfortunate, but tried and true, mechanism used to discredit others while simultaneously deflecting from us getting down to the business of dealing with the legacies of our past so that we can all move authentically and holistically forward as a nation.”

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