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Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson’s father says his daughter was ‘afraid’ after being subjected to racial slurs

<i>CNN</i><br/>Marvin Richardson
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Marvin Richardson

By Matias Grez, CNN

The father of Duke women’s volleyball player Rachel Richardson says his daughter was “afraid” and phoned him in tears after being subjected to racist abuse during a match against Brigham Young University on Friday.

Richardson, who is Black, is a sophomore outside hitter for Duke. She tweeted a statement Sunday explaining she was not the only player who was the target of the racist slurs and heckling at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah.

“Friday night in our match against Brigham Young University my fellow African American teammates and I were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match,” Richardson tweeted.

“The slurs and comments grew into threats which caused us to feel unsafe.”

In a statement on Saturday, Duke University Vice President and Director of Athletics Nina King referenced “extremely unfortunate circumstances” at the Friday match at BYU as a reason for changing the location of a Saturday match. In the statement, King said student-athletes should be able to compete in “an inclusive, anti-racist environment.”

Watching the game on television at the Richardson family home, Marvin Richardson said he had “no clue” what had taken place during the match​, but his daughter explained her experience to him in detail afterwards.

“After the game, we [Rachel and I] always talk and she called, but this was a different call,” Marvin told CNN’s New Day. “She was crying, she was upset and Rachel’s not the person who calls and cries over a loss, it’s just not who she is.

“So we knew something was wrong and then as she started to tell us what was going on and what had happened during the game, first [we felt] anger, outrage and then just a real need to make sure something was done to correct the things that came across us.”

BYU issued an apology via Twitter on Saturday, though did not confirm the specifics of the incident, and announced they had banned a fan from all athletic venues. ​According to the statement, the fan was not a BYU student, but was seated in the BYU student section.

Richardson said in a statement on Saturday that both BYU officials and coaching 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.”

Even after the incident was brought to their attention, Richardson said BYU officials “failed to adequately address the situation,” a sentiment that was echoed by her father.

BYU women’s volleyball was not immediately available for comment.

“No student athlete should have to go into any venue and be subjected to that kind of an atmosphere,” Marvin Richardson said.

“You want a raucous crowd if you’re the home team, that’s fantastic, but when it crosses that line, it becomes the responsibility of those who are in authority to make sure that atmosphere stays safe and free of any of those kinds of elements that would prohibit people from playing at their highest level.

“What I’d like to see going forward is we make every effort to make sure that those venues are safe and free from that kind of action and when it interjects itself, that it is removed — immediately. I’ve been at places where coaches have taken a mic and said: ‘Knock it off. If you don’t knock it off, we’re going to have you kicked out of here.’

“That’s an action you can take right now, stop it while it’s happening. That didn’t happen and I think that we can always do more.

“We’ve been in volleyball for 30 years, I have four daughters who have played the game, we’ve always had that occasional idiot who’s just there in the crowd, but never an atmosphere like this where she said that she felt afraid.”

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CNN’s Matt Foster, Amir Vera and Homero De la Fuente contributed to this report.

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