The story of a Brigham Young University fan hurling racial slurs at a Duke University volleyball player does not appear to be what it seemed.
What is the background?
BYU athletic officials banned a fan on Saturday for allegedly using a racial epithet against a Duke player at a game last Friday night.
The incident quickly gained national attention when Lesa Pamplin, who identified herself as the godmother of Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson, claimed on social media that Richardson was called an N-word "every time she served" and was "threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus."
Richardson later claimed in a statement that "my fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match. The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe."
Richardson alleged BYU officials were notified of the alleged slurs and threats but "failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior and create a safe environment." Richardson reiterated many of these comments in an ESPN interview on Tuesday.
What is happening now?
BYU police, who investigated the incident, determined that the fan who was banned for yelling the racial slurs was not, in fact, the person who shouted them, the Salt Lake Tribune reported — and further stated that they had yet to find any evidence that anyone shouted them at all.
"When we watched the video, we did not observe that behavior from him," BYU Police Lt. George Besendorfer told the newspaper.
BYU associate athletic director Jon McBride confirmed that university officials came to the same conclusion. He said:
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. 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.
In fact, no evidence has surfaced proving anyone shouted racial slurs. Instead, students who attended the game attest they never heard any slurs.
The Cougar Chronicle, a BYU student-run newspaper, cited multiple students on the record who were in the student section at the game and never heard any slurs.
Indeed, Besendorfer has confirmed that no student who sat in the section where the slurs allegedly came from — nor anyone who attended the volleyball match, for that matter — has come forward to report the person who hurled epithets.
Even more importantly, "[Besendorfer] also said no one has come forward to say they heard the slur being shouted during the match," the Tribune reported.
A police report, which the Tribune obtained, shows that BYU officials placed a police officer near the Duke bench after they were alerted to the racial slurs. But no one in that section identified the person making the slurs, nor did the officer hear any slurs.
BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe has also said that four ushers and an officer were sent into the stands to identify the person making the slurs. But no one was found.
It turns out the person whom BYU banned was identified by Duke personnel. Police spoke with him, but he denied making slurs. He confirmed he did approach Richardson after the game, mistaking her for someone he believed was his friend. And despite the lack of evidence against him, the police report said BYU officials wanted to ban him anyway.
After police review of the video evidence failed to confirm the person BYU officials banned was the one who made the slurs, Besendorfer said the investigation was taken over by BYU officials.
Duke vs BYU Aug. 26, 2022 NCAA www.youtube.com