Fans at Brigham Young University allegedly hurled racial insults at USC women’s soccer players at a match last year, according to a story from USA Today on Tuesday.
Members of the USC women’s soccer team said that fans from BYU, located in Provo, Utah, yelled the n-word at them as they kneeled during the national anthem before a soccer game on August 26, 2021.
The Guardian first reported the alleged incident at BYU last Friday but did not reveal the name of the visiting team. USA Today published an updated article on Tuesday, naming USC as the visiting soccer team. It’s unclear why the allegations took so long to emerge.
Emily Rhinehart, a junior and former goalie for the USC women’s soccer team, said that USC women’s soccer is a highly diverse team compared to other college teams. At the time of the incident, the team also had a Black head coach.
Before arriving at BYU for the game last year, Rhinehart said that Jason Lockhart, an associate head coach for the USC women’s soccer team, prepared the team for the possibility of “racially charged things” from the large 5,000-person crowd.
Rhinehart says that coach Lockhart, a Black man from Birmingham, Alabama, encouraged the team to “put [their] heads down and focus on the game.”
Shortly after the game – and the alleged racial slurs – USC players loaded onto the bus questioning everything that just happened, asking each other things like, “Did you hear what they said?” and “Can you believe that happened?”
Coaches did not formally address the issue at the time.
This is not the only accusation of racist language from BYU fans. According to NPR, Rachel Richardson, a sophomore on Duke University’s women’s volleyball team, alleged that during a game against BYU that took place exactly one year after the USC-related incident, she heard racial slurs from the BYU student section whenever she went to hit the ball. Richardson is the only Black starter on the team.
Following the incident, the West Coast Conference Commissioner Gloria Nevarez told USA Today that, “BYU is currently looking into the matter with the same level of diligence as the prior incident. We’ve not yet gotten to the point of understanding what [the] next steps should be.”
It wasn’t until five weeks after Richardson’s allegations that the incident with USC’s team was reported on by the media.
While BYU has yet to release a statement in response to the allegations made by the USC women’s soccer team. BYU Athletics did respond to Duke volleyball player Rachel Richardson on August 27, initially apologizing to the Duke student athletes and stating that they banned the fan from sitting in the student section, who was not a current student.
Shortly after, however, BYU released another statement on September 9 stating that they “could not corroborate the use of racial slurs at the volleyball game” and un-banned the disruptive fan. Their announcement also included an apology to the fan “for any hardship the ban caused.”
This is not the first time that a discussion has emerged about the racial insensitivities present at BYU.
The Black Menaces, a “coalition of students from various universities across the nation fighting to empower marginalized communities through social media,” has gone viral on TikTok, specifically for videos they film at BYU.
Sebastian, a junior political science major at BYU involved in the Black Menaces who only wanted to be identified by his first name, said that the creation of the coalition was the culmination of failed attempts to advocate for change at BYU. He said that the goal of the Black Menaces is “to highlight, and to find, ways to empower marginalized communities everywhere in any way possible.”
Sebastian believes that BYU’s handling of the USC and Duke athletic situations was “reactive,” and not productive.
He believes that the BYU administration needs to take tangible action. “It should be more than an apology, more than saying ‘we don’t condone racism,’” Sebastian said. “This is why we have repeat incidents.”
BYU released its “Report and Recommendations of the BYU Committee on Race, Equity, and Belonging,” which stated, “The most pressing concern is that BIPOC students often feel isolated and unsafe at BYU due to racism.”
Fewer than 1 in every 100 students at BYU is Black.
A member of BYU’s Black Student Union told the authors of the report that “my experience as a Black student at BYU is not equal to other students on campus because I don’t feel safe.”