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Utah Women’s Basketball Team Targeted by Racist Incident During NCAA Tournament

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Image credit: NBC News

Members of the Utah women’s basketball team faced disturbing racial hate near their hotel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, last week, as a pickup truck adorned with a Confederate flag approached them, using offensive language, including racial slurs, authorities confirmed Tuesday. The incident left the team shaken, prompting them to relocate to a different hotel the following day.

Utah coach Lynne Roberts revealed the distressing events that transpired last Thursday night after the team’s arrival at their first NCAA Tournament hotel. The incidents occurred in Coeur d’Alene, about 30 miles away from Spokane, where the tournament games were being held. The team, staying in Coeur d’Alene due to hotel space constraints in Spokane, encountered instances of racial hate crimes, raising concerns about safety.

The offensive incident occurred as the team was walking from the hotel to a restaurant, with a pickup truck driving up and its occupants hurling racial slurs at the players. The same individuals returned later, intensifying their harassment by revving their engines and yelling at the players, leaving everyone in shock and disbelief.

Utah filed a police report on the night of the incidents, with authorities estimating around 100 people in the vicinity at the time. The Coeur d’Alene police chief stated that investigations are ongoing, with potential charges including malicious harassment and disorderly conduct.

The incident has drawn widespread condemnation, with Utah’s athletic director, Mark Harlan, expressing disappointment over the decision to house the team so far from the competition site. The NCAA and Gonzaga University, the host school, facilitated the team’s relocation to ensure their safety.

Utah’s experience has reignited discussions about racism and safety in sports environments, prompting calls for action from NCAA leadership and law enforcement. The NCAA issued a statement expressing devastation over the incident and emphasizing the need for a safe and inclusive tournament environment.

Coach Roberts emphasized the impact of racism on players and staff, highlighting the distress caused by feeling unsafe during an NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga University echoed similar sentiments, expressing frustration and sadness over the incident.

The incident sheds light on the persistence of racism and hate groups in the region, with far-right extremists previously operating in Spokane and northern Idaho. Idaho Governor Brad Little condemned the incident, reaffirming the state’s commitment to combating racism and bigotry.

As investigations continue, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing fight against racism and discrimination in sports and society. The NCAA and other stakeholders are urged to take proactive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of athletes and teams participating in future tournaments.

This story was originally featured on AP News

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