Home Sports Utah women’s basketball team target of racial taunts in Idaho, officials say

Utah women’s basketball team target of racial taunts in Idaho, officials say

Utah women’s basketball team target of racial taunts in Idaho, officials say

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Utah women’s basketball team members were on the receiving end of racial slurs as they were walking from their hotel to a restaurant, an Idaho official said Tuesday.

Tony Stewart, who was with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, said at a news conference that a truck with a Confederate flag drove up near the members and used racist language, including the N-word. The incident allegedly occurred in Coeur d’Alene before their NCAA Tournament game.

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Utah women's basketball team

Players and staff on the Utah bench react toward the end of a second-round college basketball game against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash., Monday, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

As the team left the restaurant, Stewart said the same driver returned, “now reinforced by others,” revved their engines and yelled at the team again.

Coeur d’Alene police chief Lee White said about 100 people were in the area the night of the incident and investigators still need to talk to those affected. Two state charges would be possible for those deemed involved, malicious harassment and disorderly conduct, he said.

White also said he was working with the FBI in the investigation.

“Until we get all the facts and the investigation is complete, what charges might actually be brought against the perpetrators is yet to be determined,” he said.

No suspects have been identified.

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“There is no place for racism, hate, or bigotry in the great State of Idaho. We condemn bullies who seek to harass and silence others,” Idaho Gov. Brad Little said.

Lynne Roberts talks to reporters

Utah head coach Lynne Roberts speaks during a press conference after a second-round college basketball game against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash., Monday, March 25, 2024.  (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Utes women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts made the revelation on Monday night after the team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. She described the incident as “racial hate crimes.”

“We had several instances of some kind of racial hate crimes toward our program, and (it was) incredibly upsetting for all of us,” Roberts told reporters. “In our world, in athletics and in 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.”

Utah, South Dakota State and UC Irvine were staying in Idaho because of the lack of hotel space in the Spokane area.

“Racism is real, and it happens, and it’s awful. So for our players, whether they are White, Black, green, whatever, no one knew how to handle it, and it was really upsetting,” Roberts said. “For our players and staff to not feel safe in an NCAA Tournament environment, it’s messed up.”

Lynne Roberts on the sidelines

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

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Roberts said Gonzaga University, which played host to the tournament games, and the NCAA helped the team move hotels.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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