USA Today published a column on Wednesday claiming it is a right-wing conspiracy to think a Duke volleyball player lied about being racially taunted by Brigham Young University fans at her recent match in Provo, Utah.
“Say, just for argument’s sake, that Rachel Richardson made up this story. You have to believe that she did knowing she was putting not just her volleyball future at risk but her college future as a student at Duke. She’d be forever tarnished as a liar. One of the worst liars. You have to believe she then lied to her dad. Which is possible. Kids lie to their parents, but about this? But also … You’d have to believe she would then let her father go on CNN and repeat that lie,” the author wrote.
Thus despite video evidence confirming that he engaged in no threatening or inappropriate behavior, a Utah Valley University student is banned from attending BYU sporting events for life after Duke sophomore volleyball player Rachel Richardson and her teammates accused him of hurling racial slurs at her during their match on Aug. 26.
It’s hard to determine what Richardson believed she heard in a sporting center packed with a noisy, record-setting crowd, but it’s certainly not far-fetched to think CNN or any other corporate media outlet would let someone wielding a narrative the press is eager to amplify go on air without proper vetting.
Could Richardson have heard negative remarks while on the court? Maybe. Is there evidence to suggest that BYU fans launched racial slurs at her “throughout the entirety of the match” as she, the media, and blue checkmarks suggested? Absolutely not.
On the contrary, there’s strong evidence to suggest that Richardson and Duke’s hasty blame game and BYU’s scramble to throw off accusations of harboring racism led to the targeting of an innocent man.
The Duke/BYU controversy started like any viral incident when Richardson’s godmother Lesa Pamplin, a candidate for county criminal court judge in Texas, tweeted from her now-private account.
“My Goddaughter is the only black starter for Dukes volleyball team,” Pamplin wrote. “While playing yesterday, she was called a [racial slur] every time she served. 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 did not attend the game in question, but that didn’t matter. By the time Richardson released her own statement on Twitter alleging that “Both officials and BYU coaching staff were made aware of the incident during the game, but failed to take the necessary steps … failed to adequately address the situation after the game,” the anger for BYU and its fans was already ignited.
These anecdotes of the alleged incident severely lacked evidence and corroboration, yet the corporate media and politicians who see virtue-signaling as an asset latched onto Richardson and her family’s claims that more than one BYU fan taunted her using the n-word.
Shortly after the allegations surfaced, BYU released a statement announcing that after the game, a fan singled out by the Duke sideline for hurling racist taunts at Richardson was banned from all BYU athletic venues for life.
Around that time, every corporate media outlet from NPR to MSNBC to CNN to The Washington Post and more published stories definitively stating that at least one BYU fan hurled racist slurs at Richardson during the volleyball match and was subsequently banned for it. Richardson had claimed in her tweet that she was “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match” but the media parroted Pamplin’s “every time she rotated to serve” narrative.
Some outlets such as Axios went so far as to hint that BYU’s recent public rejection of the “world’s diversity, equity, and inclusion” agenda somehow played a role in the incident.
There was no “allegedly” or “reportedly” in the press’s coverage of the controversy either. Instead, they took Richardson, her family, and Duke at their word.
Because of this, voicemail threats and pressure for “failing to do something” to combat racism mounted against BYU. Even South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley decided to cancel her team’s upcoming games against BYU.
That pressure is why BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe gave a written and verbal thrashing to all of the fans at the next Cougar volleyball match to address the “egregious and hurtful slurs” launched against Richardson.
“Cougar Nation, we’ve got be better, and we’ve got to have the courage to take care of each other and our guests at our BYU sporting events,” Holmoe tweeted after addressing fans in person.
Before long, everyone in Utah including Gov. Spencer Cox, who has a history of defending racism against white kids, and left-wing Senate candidate Evan McMullin was cussing out BYU fans and demanding that society “do more” to prevent incidents like this one.
Even LeBron James weighed in.
“@LesaPamplin, you tell your Goddaughter to stand tall, be proud and continue to be BLACK!!! We are a brotherhood and sisterhood! We have her back. This is not sports. #striveforgreatness #morethanavollyballplayer,” the leftist NBA star tweeted with a handful of emojis.
It wasn’t until days later — when a conservative student newspaper on campus published an exclusive noting that people sitting in the student section where the reported racist incident occurred heard no racial slurs or taunting — that anyone thought to second guess the story that was fed into the news cycle for days.
Not only did The Cougar Chronicle report that it was “unable to find a source in the student section that can corroborate Richardson’s claim of racial slurs being yelled at her,” but it also quoted a verified source in the BYU athletic department who said Richardson’s insistence that BYU did nothing to address her concerns during the game were bogus.
“Ms. Richardson complained of hearing a racial slur during the second set but did not point anyone out. Officials discussed briefly and stationed policemen there. … [T]here were no more complaints until after the match,” the anonymous source explained.
The source also claimed that “BYU banned an innocent man to appease the mob and make their PR mess go away.”
“While I don’t know if Ms. Richardson genuinely misheard something or intentionally made up this story, it certainly does not constitute the criticism BYU has gotten. There is zero evidence of a slur being said. Not a single witness, besides Ms. Richardson, has come forth. Not a single cell phone video or BYUtv’s several camera angles caught a single thing. How unlikely when this person supposedly said a slur during ‘every single serve.'”
That same day, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported that an investigation by the BYU campus police yielded nothing but strong video evidence that the fan named by the Duke sideline for heckling black players such as Richardson was not “shouting anything while the Duke player was serving.”
As a matter of fact, the police officer who reviewed footage featuring the banned fan said, “There was nothing seen on the game film that led me to believe” that the man “was the person who was making comments to the player who complained about being called the N-word” and that the non-BYU student wasn’t even present during some of Richardson’s serves.
As the Salt Lake City Tribune reported, the BYU “athletic department wanted to ban the man” anyway. This caving was likely a move to get Duke, Richardson, her family, and the press off of their backs.
Of course, the media outlets who smeared this fan as a racist have yet to retract or apologize for their false claims about BYU and its fans. Some outlets are still hosting segments featuring Richardson, her family members, and her account of the controversy.
The real question here is not whether Richardson was telling the truth but why it took so long for anyone to investigate or corroborate her claims before blasting them to the world.
Any of the corporate media outlets that took time to report this story could have easily tried to verify Richardson’s claims. They have the resources, the time, and the staff to do that legwork — such as asking the campus police about the results of the investigation or asking fans in the record-setting crowd if they heard anything inappropriate.
But once again, the media failed to do the most basic aspects of their job because, to them, pushing an agenda is more important than finding and reporting facts.