A college volleyball player alleged spectators hurled racist abuse at her, but the claims were never proven — and it took a student newspaper to expose the truth as major left-wing media outlets ate up the story. 

The racist saga involving Brigham Young University first made national headlines late last month when Duke University sophomore Rachel Richardson went public with allegations that she had been subjected to racist slurs every time she served during a volleyball match in Provo, Utah, on Aug. 26.

But BYU dropped a bombshell last week when it revealed that its “extensive” investigation into the matter, which involved reviewing multiple videos and CCTV, had found zero evidence to support 19-year-old Richardson’s claims.

The university also issued an apology and overturned a ban on the unidentified fan who Duke officials had claimed was responsible for hurling the racist abuse at Richardson.

The results of the probe validated an Aug. 30 article published by The Cougar Chronicle — a publication run by conservative BYU students, which said they had been unable to find a single source in the crowd who heard the slur.

The article, authored by students Luke Hanson and Thomas Stevenson, detailed how a source within the BYU athletics department was also quick to question the racist allegations.

Duke University woman's volleyball player Rachel Richardson claimed a fan at Brigham Young University hurled racial abuse to her during a game last month.
Duke University woman’s volleyball player Rachel Richardson claimed a fan at Brigham Young University hurled racial abuse at her during a match last month.
Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP

“Doesn’t surprise me that left-wing media went with a narrative before knowing the whole story,” Stevenson told The Post on Thursday of how outlets — including the New York Times and CNN — quickly ran with Richardson’s account.

Stevenson added that his outlet, too, initially believed the allegations were “legit” but that they started questioning the claims when readers began contacting them saying it never happened.

“It was a volleyball game, so maybe someone said, ‘Dig’ and she misheard it as a racial slur,” Stevenson said, as he speculated on how the claims may have originated.

The controversial narrative had first erupted when Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, took to Twitter on Aug. 27 to say the teen had been called the N-word every time she served while playing BYU.

Richardson's godmother Lesa Pamplin spread the story on Twitter.
Richardson’s godmother Lesa Pamplin spread the story on Twitter.

“She was threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus. A police officer had to be put by their bench,” Pamplin wrote. “5700 folks attended that game. The taunts got louder and louder when the police came to the bench.”

Pamplin, who wasn’t at the game and has since turned her Twitter profile private, said in a follow-up statement that “many adults failed my goddaughter … every American should be enraged that a young lady was subjected to hateful, demeaning language.”

The allegations sparked widespread backlash and a media frenzy as Richardson, her godmother and father, who also wasn’t at the game, gave multiple interviews repeating the claims.

Richardson issued a statement saying she and her black teammates were “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match” and that the slurs grew into “threats which caused us to feel unsafe.”

She said BYU officials and coaching staff were alerted to the situation during and immediately after the game, “but [they] failed to take the necessary steps to stop the unacceptable behavior.”

The allegations sparked widespread condemnation, including from Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox, who wrote in a since-deleted tweet: “I’m disgusted that this behavior is happening and deeply saddened if others didn’t step up to stop it.”

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James also chimed in, tweeting in support of Richardson: “We have her back. This is not sports.” His tweet has not been removed.

An investigation by BYU confirmed a student newspaper's claims that they racist incident did not happen.
An investigation by BYU confirmed a student newspaper’s claims that the racist incident did not happen.
Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP

BYU quickly issued a public apology for the alleged incident and said it had banned a fan identified by Duke from all BYU Athletic venues.

But weeks later, the university backtracked when its probe was completed.

“From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event,” a BYU statement read. “As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation. 

“As a result of our investigation, we have lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match. We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity. BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.”

Basketball star LeBron James showed support for Richardson after the story was first reported.
Basketball star LeBron James showed support for Richardson after the story was first reported.

The university said its review included looking at “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).

“We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event: 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,” the BYU statement continued.

Duke University’s athletic director, Nina King, quickly issued a statement standing by Richardson and the rest of her team.

“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,” she said after BYU issued its statement.

“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.”

The Post’s attempts to reach Richardson and her godmother Thursday were unsuccessful.


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Tyler Cowan