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Sports Volleyball Hands In
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Tiffany Meh / Spoon

Player Called Slurs at Game: What this Shows Us about Racism in Sports

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bucknell chapter.

The sports world is viewed as untouchable by the majority of fans. When it comes to who is on the court or the field, the only thing that matters is their ability to compete beyond the average capacity. However, this does not mean that societal issues do not permeate into the lives of the athletes we look up to. If anything, the notion that the sports industry is a bubble that is impenetrable is completely false, and if we were to zoom into the world of sports, we would see that societal issues are in fact magnified. Money disputes, political power, and racial tensions continue to plague the world of sports, professional, and collegiate. Despite the increased visibility of these issues and the players that are affected by them, just this year slurs were yelled at a collegiate volleyball player competing in a pre-season tournament. 

As a fall sport, collegiate volleyball begins its season in August, usually by starting the season with non-conference play to get the team back into competing. Duke University volleyball headed to Provo, Utah to play against one of the best collegiate volleyball teams in the U.S — Brigham Young University. While playing, a Black player on the Duke University team was called slurs and was targeted by fans while on the court. BYU went on to ban the student that yelled the slurs, and Rachel Richardson, one of the players targeted during the match, came out with multiple statements in which she explained the harm that this can cause on and off the court. 

Let us not downplay the situation that occurred at BYU but instead address it for what it truly is — a systemic issue regarding ignorance and accountability. Bucknell University, the institution that I attend, is a PWI (primarily white institution). However, at the core of Bucknell we value diversity, equity and inclusion. We are repeatedly taught about the changing dynamics of race and how it affects every aspect of our lives. But that is not to say that we are a perfect university. There are issues regarding race at every institution, especially those which permeate into the sporting world. The stereotype of Black individuals immediately being assumed to be an athlete or on some sort of scholarship is one that is common on college campuses, especially at PWIs. 

But let us also remember that there is another side of the story that Rachel Richardson allowed us to see — the athletes point of view. What is it like being a Black woman on a sports team and being a student at a PWI? Brianna Frazilus, a freshman on the Bucknell Volleyball team comments on what she felt when she heard about what happened at BYU, and how it affects her daily life*: 

“In response to the unfortunate incident that occurred at the Duke vs. BYU game, I am tired and sad to see minorities still having to ask for basic respect. Rachel’s response to the situation was commendable and very well spoken. It is unfortunate that someone as young as her has to deal with things like this and it’s even worse that this is a recurring issue. We continuously ask to be recognized as human beings and ask to be heard but we are continuously ignored.  

Why do we have to ask to be heard and seen? Minority athletes work just as hard as all other athletes to get where they are and have to fight just as hard if not harder both on and off the court/field.  They are there to play a sport they love at an institution that is willing to give them an opportunity and having to worry about being heckled and called derogatory names is an added pressure that no other athlete has to think about. How is that fair? The person yelling those names to Rachel Richardson was in the wrong, but all the people around him who allowed him to keep going are just as guilty. Silence is the voice of complicity. A stronger message that this won’t be tolerated in any way shape or form is a necessary lesson.  People need to learn there are consequences to their actions and words can cut deeper than they realize.  The public support is wonderful but it eventually fades away, it always fades away until something like this happens again next season. Rachel might be able to forgive, but she will never forget that moment. The pressure of being a student athlete is enough, no one should have to worry about racial noise while they play.  

As a black student athlete at a predominantly white institution, I am highly disappointed that this keeps happening with minimal punishment. I am blessed enough to have never had an experience like this, but that doesn’t mean I will never experience it in my lifetime.  I live in fear for myself, friends, my brother, and my future children who will inevitably have to deal with moments like this because there are no real consequences. I understand that you can’t force others to be more accepting of people’s differences, but you can hold them accountable when they use those differences as a weapon.”

Open discrimination like the event that occurred at BYU continues to happen on college campuses around the U.S. It is important to bring visibility and attention to how discrimination affects the players in their everyday lives. Something we cannot forget is that these individuals are athletes, but they are also students, and before all else, they are people.  

*I felt it was necessary to include the entirety of Brianna’s quote to show the effect this situation has on other black student athletes. 



Brianna’s Socials:

Insta: brianna.fraz

Twitter: briannafrazilus

Allie Lopez

Bucknell '21

Hi! I am an animal behavior and creative writing major at Bucknell University. I am passionate about sports, lifestyle habits, and mindfulness. I love writing as a pastime and hopefully will continue to pursue it in the future!