'Racism is real ... and it's awful,' Utah women's basketball coach says after team says they faced harassment on night out

The head coach called the incident "distracting and upsetting."

March 27, 2024, 12:39 AM

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, city leaders have launched an investigation after members of the Utah women's basketball team say they were subjected to racial slurs from two men who also taunted them using their trucks as players were stepping out for a meal.

According to a police report obtained by ABC News, on Thursday, March 21, team members were headed to dinner when "two pickup trucks were revving their engines and speeding by the team as they walked down the street. The trucks then turned around and came back towards the team and yelled the N-word at them as many of the Utah players are African American," the report stated.

"The incident caused a well-founded fear among the players," the report said.

PHOTO: Utah head coach Lynne Roberts speaks during a press conference after a second-round college basketball game against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash., March 25, 2024.
Utah head coach Lynne Roberts speaks during a press conference after a second-round college basketball game against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash., March 25, 2024.
Young Kwak/AP

Utah's women's basketball head coach Lynne Roberts addressed the incident involving her players in a post-game press conference Monday night, saying it was "upsetting" for the team.

"We had several instances of some kind of racial hate crimes towards our program and [it was] incredibly upsetting for all of us," Coach Roberts said. "Racism is real, and it happens, and it's awful."

"For our players and staff to not feel safe in a NCAA tournament, it's messed up," she added.

While the Coeur d'Alene Resort was not involved in the incident, the resort's manager, Bill Reagan, offered his apologies and said the men in the trucks did not represent the town.

"On behalf of the downtown business community, let me apologize for this terrible situation and incident. I want to apologize to the student athletes, their staff, and the host university, Gonzaga," Reagan said at a press conference Tuesday. "These students had a right to walk downtown, free of harassment. Don't let the actions of a few indict all of Coeur d'Alene. We stand united in not tolerating this type of behavior."

Coeur d'Alene Mayor Jim Hammond also extended his apologies to the team, denouncing the incident.

"To the young women who endured racial slurs while visiting, I offer my most sincere apology. We, all of us, stand with you. We embrace you. We celebrate your accomplishments and strongly denounce any malicious treatment towards you," he said during the Tuesday afternoon press conference where officials addressed the incident.

The Utah team transferred to a hotel in Spokane, Washington, on Friday and Saturday as rooms became available, a spokesperson from the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations said during Tuesday's press conference.

City of Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Lee White says there are a number of potential crimes the department is investigating related to the incident, including malicious harassment and the disorderly conduct statute. Chief White said the police department is working with the FBI as the case is open and ongoing.

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, is just 35 miles outside of Spokane, Washington, where Gonzaga's men's and women's basketball teams were the hosts for the NCAA tournament last weekend.

Addressing the incident on X early Tuesday morning, Gonzaga released a statement saying the incident did not reflect the school's values.

"We are frustrated and deeply saddened to know that what should always be an amazing visitor and championship experience was in any way compromised by this situation, for it in no way reflects the values, standards, and beliefs to which we at Gonzaga University hold ourselves accountable," the statement read.

In a statement to ABC News, the NCAA also condemned the incident in Coeur d'Alene.

"NCAA championship events represent the pinnacle of a student-athlete’s collegiate career. 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. We extend our thanks to the leadership at Gonzaga, Utah, and everyone involved for acting quickly to address the situation, and to local law enforcement for its quick response and efforts to keep student-athletes safe," the statement read.

Related Topics