Utah Women’s Basketball Team Allegedly Harassed, Called N-Word In Idaho

Utah Women’s Basketball Team Allegedly Harassed, Called N-Word In Idaho

The FBI may get involved in the investigation of the harassment the University of Utah’s women's basketball team said they experienced.

A town in Idaho called Coeur d’Alene was described as a safe haven for white supremacists by the Idaho 97 Project, a local public advocacy group. And the University of Utah’s women’s basketball team was forced to stay there and endure “horrific” acts of racial hatred due to a lack of hotel space in the Spokane, Washington, area.

The University of Gonzaga, the NCAA, and Idaho Gov. Brad Little condemned the harassment and apologized to the University of Utah’s team, but the damage to the players had already been done.

As NBC News reports, the FBI is ready to investigate should it find reason to get involved. A spokesperson sent the outlet a statement: “We are aware of the incident in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and are in regular contact with local authorities. If, in the course of the local investigation, information comes to light of a potential federal violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate.”

According to Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White, the FBI may have to get involved. As CNN reports, during a press conference, White said, “The Coeur d’Alene Police Department has an open case in this matter, and detectives are attempting to speak with any victims of this incident.”

White continued, “But so far, we don’t know exactly who that may be. It was initially reported that there was approximately 100 people who were in the vicinity of the incident when it occurred. We are working cooperatively with our partners at the FBI because there are federal statutes that may be appropriately charged based on what actually occurred.”

A spokesperson for the police informed CNN that the department is working with the University of Utah to interview those who may have witnessed or heard verbal abuse.

Deputy Athletic Director Charmelle Green, a Black woman, told KSL of her experience and how she and those with her on the trip felt after hearing the N-word yelled at them while walking to a restaurant. 

“We all just were in shock, and we looked at each other like, did we just hear that? Everybody was in shock — our cheerleaders, our students that were in that area that heard it, clearly were just frozen. We kept walking, just shaking our heads like, ‘I can’t believe that.’”

According to The Spokesman Review, a dispatch call made about the incident was released on March 28, and the dispatch caller alluded to the ugly history of the town several times before eventually stating that the team was scared.

“But let’s just put that in the past,” the man said on the call with an officer. “We just experienced that, and let me tell you, there are petrified young ladies that are here for a basketball tournament to play nationally televised games … You can’t control what the hillbilly white trash people do…This is such a bad look… And they’re afraid, and I’m not being dramatic.”

Utah Head Coach Lynne Roberts, a white woman, said during a postgame press conference on March 26 that racism is real, and it is awful. 

“Incredibly upsetting for all of us,” Roberts said. “You think in our world, in athletics and the university settings, it’s shocking. There’s so much diversity on a college campus and so you’re just not exposed to that very often. And so when you are, it’s like, you have people say, ‘Man, I can’t believe that happened.’ But racism is real and it happens, and it’s awful.”

Green, meanwhile, criticized the decision from the NCAA to choose to send the team to another state, let alone a city with the racist history and reputation of the city they found themselves in. 

“We were actually rather taken aback by our accommodations, because when we were planning to host we were having similar issues in which we were seeking hotels either in Provo or Park City or Ogden, and the NCAA said no to that, so the fact that we were sent to a place that wasn’t even the state that the university who’s hosting resides was incredibly problematic.”

Utah’s Athletic Director Mark Harlan echoed Green’s concerns, telling KSL that the team should never have been in that position. 

“When we’re on the road, we don’t want to go through anything that was described,” Harlan said. “We should not have been there. I do appreciate the NCAA and Gonzaga moving us from that situation, but we should never have been there in the first place. So a lot of folks need to get home and heal from the whole matter.”

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