Sports

Police investigation into Utah women’s basketball allegations finds audio containing racial slur

A police investigation into allegations that the Utah women’s basketball team was subjected to “racial hate crimes” while in Idaho for the NCAA women’s tournament last month has turned up evidence that “corroborates” players’ testimony, law enforcement said Thursday. 

The Coeur d’Alene Police Department issued an update confirming that detectives have gathered approximately 35 hours of video evidence from businesses in the area, noting that not all the footage contained audio. 

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, Washington, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

But in one piece of evidence, police say a “racial slur was clearly audible.” 

“Some of the surveillance video/audio corroborates what was reported by members of the basketball program and detectives are currently working to locate any additional evidence,” police said in a news release. 

“We’ve identified an audio recording where the use of a racial slur was clearly audible. We’re working to determine the context and conduct associated with its use to determine if it is a violation of the law. While we’re still reviewing evidence, it appears the use of a racial slur occurred more than one time.” 

Following Utah’s loss to Gonzaga in the second round of the tournament on March 25, Utes coach Lynne Roberts said her team had experienced a series of hate crimes after arriving at their hotel in Coeur d’Alene.

Lynne Roberts talks to reporters

Utah head coach Lynne Roberts speaks during a press conference after their NCAA Tournament game against Gonzaga in Spokane, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

UTAH WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM SUBJECTED TO ‘RACIAL HATE CRIMES’ AT TOURNAMENT HOTEL, COACH SAYS

“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.”

The following day the university released a statement detailing two “disturbing encounters.” One incident involved players walking to dinner when a car drove by and “occupants shouted racial epithets” at them. The second incident involved another vehicle and the occupants “shouting racially disparaging words and threats” at the team as they were walking back to their hotel. 

Lani White celebrates

Utah guard Lani White, coach Lynne Roberts, right, and team members celebrate during the South Dakota State game in the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, March 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Police are continuing to investigate the matter. Law enforcement is asking the public’s help in identifying a silver passenger car that was caught on surveillance in the area at the time the incident occurred.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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