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Racist abuse prompts Utah to change hotels in women’s NCAA tourney

Racist abuse prompts Utah to change hotels in women’s NCAA tourney

The University of Utah women’s basketball team was forced to move hotels after the team experienced several “racial hate crimes” while traveling for the NCAA March Madness tournament.

At a press conference after Utah lost to Gonzaga in the second round of the tournament Monday, head coach Lynne Roberts said the team experienced several incredibly upsetting instances of racial hate while staying in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, about 30 miles from Spokane, where the tournament game was held.

“You have people say, ‘Man, I can’t believe that happened,’” she said. “But you know, racism is real, and it happens, and it’s awful.”

“It was really upsetting and for our players and staff to not feel safe in the NCAA tournament environment; it’s messed up, and so we moved hotels,” Roberts later said.

The basketball team, along with members of the marching band and cheerleading team, told KSL.com that they gathered for dinner to celebrate their season.

Someone approached the group in a white truck, revved its engine and yelled the N-word at the team before driving away, the outlet reported. Utah’s deputy athletics director Charmelle Green said it was shocking.

“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,” she told KSL.com. “We kept walking, just shaking our heads, like I can’t believe that.”

It happened again with more vehicles after the team finished eating dinner, the outlet reported.

Roberts said the instances of racial hate were a distraction for her team and were “upsetting and unfortunate.”

“This should be a positive for everybody involved. This should be a joyous time for our program, and to have kind of a black eye on that experience is unfortunate,” she said.

Roberts said the NCAA and Gonzaga University worked to move the team to a new hotel after its first night in Coeur d’Alene.

According to The Associated Press, Gonzaga issued a statement saying safety is the first priority and the school is “frustrated and deeply saddened” that their experience was compromised.

The NCAA said it was made aware of the incident and “immediately worked” with Utah and Gonzaga to “provide increased security for the team” until they could be moved to a new hotel. The organization condemned racism and hatred “in any form.”

“We are devastated about the Utah team’s experience while traveling to compete on what should have been a weekend competing on the brightest stage and creating some of the fondest memories of their lives,” the NCAA said in an emailed statement. “We extend our thanks to the leadership at Gonzaga, Utah, and everyone involved for acting so quickly to address the situation, and to local law enforcement for its quick response and efforts to keep student-athletes safe.”

—Updated at 4:19 p.m.

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