Matt Araiza, Rachel Richardson, and the cowardice of ‘leadership’

BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe shows the world how NOT to respond to your own fans yelling racial slurs.

BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe shows the world how NOT to respond to your own fans yelling racial slurs.
Screenshot: BYU

What do a former NFL punter and a Black female volleyball player at Duke have in common?

Their names wouldn’t have dominated recent headlines if the decision-makers in both situations were proactive instead of reactive. But, given the circumstances around both instances, it’s easy to understand why what happened, happened.

Men in power — and usually the white ones — will always choose the option of saying something after the fact — instead of during — when something racist is taking place, in the same way, that the men who run the NFL will overlook the allegations against a talented player until outside pressure forces them to do something.

To me, the video is funny — as it’s a hilarious attempt of an actor trying to portray a role that he can’t pull off. It’s hard to adequately deliver a performance when you don’t even want to be on stage, let alone believe in the script. It’s footage of BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe taking fans and the student body “to task” after Rachel Richardson — a Black sophomore member of the Duke women’s volleyball team — had the N-word repeatedly yelled at her.

“At last night’s game, there were some egregious and hurtful slurs that were directed at members of the Duke University women’s volleyball team,” said Holmoe. I’m the athletic director, and I’m accountable for what happens in all of our athletic events, and with that in mind, the process to get better and to heal has already begun.”

First of all, you can’t own up and apologize for the racial slur that a white person said to a Black person while other white people sat around and did nothing if you don’t even address that the N-word was used. And secondly, how arrogant do you have to be to claim that healing has begun when you aren’t the person that needs to heal?

“If you would have met her, you would have loved her, but you don’t know her, and so you don’t feel that way,” Holmoe continued. “As children of God, we are responsible, it’s our mission to love one another and treat everybody with respect, and that didn’t happen (Friday). We fell very short. We didn’t live up to our best.”

Mormons, and white evangelicals, who believe in a religion that’s founded on love, acceptance, and forgiveness, always find themselves in situations where they have to comment — if they even do that — on situations like this after the fact, with some thinly- veiled words and phrases that never call out/hold accountable the people for the acts and mentalities that lead to these situations. Once you claim to believe in love, it means that hate is now your sworn enemy. And since hate is the cornerstone of racism, it means that this group of people should be its loudest adversaries, yet never are.

But, this isn’t all on BYU. As Duke is to blame as well. Because despite moving the team’s next game to an alternate site in Utah, or what the school said in its official statement, Duke didn’t do enough. Anytime a 19-year-old has to be an adult in a room full of grownups, it means they’ve all failed her. This is reminiscent of how so many failed the girl who alleges that she was gang-raped by former Bills punter Matt Araiza.

Despite how some in the Bills’ front office probably patted themselves on the back for cutting their prized punter after it was revealed that he’s in the middle of a gruesome gang-rape lawsuitthere have been reports that the Bills knew about it last month after they drafted him — and did nothing until the public and press became aware.

But, this isn’t all on the Bills — stop me if you’ve just read a line like that before.

The allegations against Araiza stem from when he was in college at San Diego State University. And earlier this week, the school’s athletic director and head football coach — Brady Hoke — initially walked out of a news conference because he wanted to talk about football, while the press wanted answers about the elephant in the room.

And if that didn’t take the cake, Araiza’s parents issued a statement on his behalf that began with “the rule of law is innocent until proven guilty,” about a situation in which no one has even gone to court yet.

In each of these situations, somebody sat on their hands as acts of blatant racism were taking place or while they knew a member of their roster might be involved in a situation in which it’s better to get in front of, than make decisions once the damage is done.

This is who we are as a society. And despite how easy it is to blame it on all the white men that looked proactiveness in the face and said “F*ck off!” as if they were Logan Roy, the fact that nothing was done in the name of a non-conference volleyball game being won or the opportunity that complicities would give the Buffalo Bills’ opponents bad field position is why idleness was chosen.

Society has a long history of looking the other way when it comes to sports, and it’s why overt racism and allegations of rape are things that may never be serious enough to stop games from being played. Sports will always be a barometer of society. But too often we forget that it’s a two-edged sword.


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