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Utah 'shaken' after experiencing racial hate at NCAA Tournament hotel

The women's basketball team was staying at a hotel in Idaho due to the lack of available accommodations in Spokane, where the tournament took place.
Utah 'shaken' after experiencing racial hate at NCAA Tournament hotel
Posted at 1:53 PM, Mar 27, 2024

Members of the Utah women’s basketball team said they are “deeply troubled and shaken” after alleged incidents near their hotel in Idaho last week that subjected the team to racist slurs and hateful harassment. 

The team had accommodations in Coeur d’Alene on Thursday to participate in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament’s First and Second Rounds hosted by Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, which is approximately 30 minutes away, over the state line. 

According to a joint statement from University of Utah Athletics Director Mark Harlan, Deputy Athletics Director Charmelle Green and Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lynne Roberts, the team was walking to a nearby restaurant from their hotel when a vehicle drove by and the people inside the vehicle shouted racist language at them. 

The same vehicle returned when the team was walking back from dinner, this time passing by slowly, revving the engine, and continuing to shout racist words and threats, according to Utah and Coeur d’Alene officials. 

“Out of concern for their well-being and safety, we worked with Gonzaga and the NCAA to move to alternate accommodations in Spokane,” the joint statement from Utah said. 

Several teams were staying in hotels in Idaho because of the lack of available hotel space in the Spokane area after it was announced the city would be the host site for the first rounds of both the men’s and women’s tournaments. 

The university contacted Coeur d’Alene police and filed a report the same night of the incidents. Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White said they haven’t located the suspects and are working to speak with the victims. 

White said it was estimated that there were about 100 potential witnesses to the incidents that officers are working to gather accounts from. The department has also partnered with the FBI in its investigation. . 

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Leaders in the city of Coeur d’Alene held a press conference the following Tuesday morning to discuss the ongoing investigation and condemn the alleged actions. 

“To the young women who endured racial slurs while visiting, I offer my most sincere apology,” said Coeur d’Alene Mayor Jim Hammond. “We, all of us, stand with you, we embrace you, we celebrate your accomplishments and strongly denounce any malicious treatment towards you.”

“I want to make it very clear and very loud that we condemn in the strongest terms those horrendous acts of hatred, and if the perpetrators can be found, we call upon them to be prosecuted," said Tony Stewart, the director of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. 

Both Idaho Governor Brad Little and Lt. Governor Scott Bedke condemned the incidents, stating, “Idaho does not tolerate racism, hate, or bigotry in any form.”

The NCAA said, in part, “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.” 

Utah expressed gratitude to Gonzaga for their care and efforts in helping the team find new accommodations that made them feel safe. But Utah added that it was “disappointed” by the decision to house their team so far away from the competition site to begin with. 

The joint statement from Utah said, “We will work with NCAA leadership to make it clear that being so far removed from the site was unacceptable and a contributing factor to the impact of this incident.”

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