Man who shouted racist, sexist slurs at Utah women’s basketball team won’t face charges, Idaho prosecutors say

The incident occurred during the NCAA Tournament, leaving members of the Utes distraught.

(Young Kwak | AP) Utah head coach Lynne Roberts watches during the first half of a second-round college basketball game against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash., Monday, March 25, 2024.

An 18-year-old Idaho man who officials say admitted to shouting a racist slur at members of the University of Utah women’s basketball team will not be charged with a crime.

After two months of investigating the incident that took place during the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, city attorneys in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, decided last week not to prosecute the man based on a lack of probable cause and the potential violation of his constitutional right to free speech.

The man, a student at a Coeur d’Alene high school, admitted to shouting the N-word and a sexually explicit comment from a car as the Utes players walked nearby, according to a charging decision document obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.

The incident, which took place on March 21 as Utah was preparing for a tournament game against Gonzaga, was captured on surveillance video.

On May 3, Coeur d’Alene Chief Deputy City Attorney Ryan Hunter wrote that the city attorney’s office considered charging the man with disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct and malicious harassment. But the document stated there was “insufficient evidence” that the man “acted with a specific intent to intimidate or harass any specific person.”

“[O]n the contrary, the sum of the evidence supports that [his] intent was to be funny,” Hunter wrote.

Hunter also concluded that the man’s conduct didn’t rise to the level of pursuing prosecution for the other two charges. He also wrote that the man’s comment and use of the N-word could not “meet the legal requirements for any of the narrow categories of unprotected speech.”

“Our office shares in the outrage sparked by [the accused’s] abhorrently racist and misogynistic statement, and we join in unequivocally condemning that statement and the use of a racial slur in this case, or in any circumstance,” Hunter wrote. “However, that cannot, under current law, form the basis for criminal prosecution in this case.”

The Tribune is not identifying the 18-year-old man as he has not been criminally charged.

Coeur d’Alene police’s investigation into the incident did not match up exactly with initial reports of the night.

A few hours after the incident, Robert Moyer, a university donor, reported it to a police officer, per body cam footage obtained by The Tribune. Moyer said people in trucks revving their engines shouted the N-word at the team and the traveling party as they went to dinner.

“It was aggressive,” Moyer said. “It wasn’t passive. It was like they were having fun f---ing with us.”

The charging decision document states video surveillance shows three trucks making “significant noise while accelerating,” but that it wasn’t during the time the Utah contingent was walking into the restaurant. The document also states there is no audio evidence that suggests people inside those trucks said the N-word during that time.

On March 25, Utes coach Lynne Roberts first made the allegations public, saying her team experienced “racial hate crimes” while staying in Coeur d’Alene, which is more than 30 minutes from Spokane, Washington, where the first two rounds of the tournament were being held.

Roberts said the incident caused the team to change hotels, and called it “a distraction and upsetting and unfortunate.”