Gordon Monson: Racist fans — at BYU and elsewhere — need an immediate hook and immediate help

After a fan repeatedly called a Duke volleyball player a racist slur, BYU athletics director Tom Holmoe called on Cougar fans to take a stand against racism.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tom Holmoe at BYU football media day in Provo on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. After a fan called a Duke volleyball player a racist slur repeatedly at a match this week, Holmoe called on Cougar fans to take a stand against racism.

The minute any “fan” at any sports event yells out to a player in the competition a racist slur, the result should be automatic.

Pal, you’re gone.

Right now.

A title of an old R.E.M. album was, “Automatic for the People.”

And that’s what this should be.

I was not at the BYU-Duke volleyball match at Smith Fieldhouse on Friday night, but if I had been, and heard what was reportedly repeatedly shouted by a spectator sitting in the BYU student section, what a Duke player’s godmother wrote later on Twitter, that Rachel Richardson had racist language hurled at her, I would have done two things: 1) told the so-called fan to shut the hell up, and 2) informed authorities immediately.

That doesn’t make me any kind of hero and it shouldn’t make me an exception of any kind. It should make me a plain old normal, decent human being, just like everybody else.

Lesa Pamplin said every time her goddaughter served the ball during the match, the fan yelled a racist slur at her. The athlete was also threatened, she said, by a white male at the match, told to watch her back on the way to the team bus.

Reports say the fan was subsequently banned from future BYU sports events.


Reports say the fan was not immediately kicked out of the event, just that when Duke players complained, a police officer was positioned at the end of the visitors bench.

Tom Holmoe himself said it: not good enough.

“As children of God, we are responsible, it is our mission to love one another and treat everybody with respect and that didn’t happen,” the Cougars’ athletics director told fans before Saturday’s volleyball match. “We fell very short. ...

“I ask that everyone at any of our games who represents BYU, that you will have the courage to take a stand and be able to take care of each other and, more importantly, the guests, our guests, who we invite to come play here.”

What a pathetic episode at a school that already has more than a few issues with which to deal, issues to correct, issues to make right. BYU is not the only place such miserable happenings occur, but it should be a place, like any other, where they not only are not tolerated, but are dealt with at once, without delay.

Pal, you’re gone.


BYU issued a statement in the aftermath saying such behavior is absolutely unacceptable, that athletes should feel safe and welcome on BYU’s campus.

The statement was strong, the response at the event was weak.

“All of God’s children deserve love and respect, and BYU athletics is completely committed to leading out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice of any kind and rooting out racism. When a student-athlete or fan comes to a BYU sporting event, we expect that they will be treated with love and respect and feel safe on our campus.

“To say we are extremely disheartened in the actions of a small number of fans in last night’s volleyball match in the Smith Fieldhouse between BYU and Duke is not strong enough language. We will not tolerate behavior of this kind. Specifically the use of a racial slur at any of our athletic events is absolutely unacceptable and BYU athletics holds a zero-tolerance approach to this behavior. We wholeheartedly apologize …”

Do more than apologize.

Quickly remove the perpetrator.

That did not happen.

“When [the] behavior was initially reported by Duke, there was no individual pointed out. Despite BYU security and event management’s efforts, they were not able to identify a perpetrator of racial slurs,” BYU said in a statement. “It wasn’t until after the game that an individual was identified by Duke who they believed were uttering the slurs and exhibiting problematic behaviors. That is the individual who has been banned. We understand that the Duke players’ experience is what matters here. They felt unsafe and hurt, and we were unable to address that during the game in a manner that was sufficient.”

Holmoe talked with Richardson on Saturday and that would have been a compelling conversation to listen in on.

“I’m the athletics director and I’m accountable for what happens in all our athletics events,” Holmoe said in that address to fans. “... I want you to know that this morning I visited with the young athlete on Duke’s team and her coach. If you would have met her, you would have loved her.”

Bottom line here is this: BYU, nor its fans, should or can allow anyone who demonstrates racist “attitudes and actions” to retain the privilege of occupying a seat at any game on campus.

The second anyone does, they must be shown the door.

In that moment, some of God’s children don’t deserve love and respect.

They deserve a couple of other things and they badly need something else: 1) a quick hook, 2) the sight of the other side of a slammed door that remains slammed, and 3) intensive therapy.