Simply Do What You Know Is Right. Even… Especially… When It Is Hard

By Coach Ron Wolforth –


Stepping into the public discourse in 2022 is fraught with danger. On many topics, lines are drawn and often those lines are bright. We are obviously very polarized as a culture at the moment.

A vast, vast majority of the time, I stick precisely to what I think our clients want us to discuss, which revolves around baseball, pitching, and the development of the pitching athlete.

Recently, an event occurred that I felt I simply needed to speak out about. I thought my unique experience might serve to teach and inspire our small subculture to constantly step back and think before reacting in such cases.

Many of you may not know that from 1986-1991, I was the Head Softball Coach at the University of Nebraska. During that period, one of my players was a terrific African American athlete named Leanna Miles. The team called her “Nanner”. She was our leadoff hitter, a left fielder, very fast, and had a very warm and bubbly personality. She was a favorite amongst the team and coaches.

Leanna was, at that time in 1987, one of the relatively few Black players in Division I softball.

So when I read about Rachel Richardson, a 19-year-old Black sophomore athlete and outside hitter for Duke University, who said she was “targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match” (a match that took place in front of 5,000 spectators), I was really taken aback.

Immediately, this story didn’t sound right to me. I thought this story was either poorly written or someone was not sharing the entirety of what had occurred. I didn’t know who was responsible, but I intuitively knew this story was fatally flawed as it was originally written.

In 1987, if Leanna would have been heckled with anything like this story described, my staff and I would have immediately stopped the game and had the offender or offenders removed. Leanna’s teammates would have been outraged and would have raced to her defense. I truly can’t imagine, even in 1987 mind you, that a rival opposing crowd or team would have accepted such bad behavior from a fan or set of fans in their midst at a college event, let alone a women’s college event.

The men’s professional sports environment can be pretty vulgar and vitriolic, but colleges simply do not tolerate this type of behavior. Female sports crowds are given even less room for shoddy sportsmanship, let alone overtly racist catcalls during competition.

So, in 2022’s supercharged environment, something felt off about the story. It made zero sense to me. I let it go but something deep down inside troubled me greatly about the account. It just didn’t add up.

Several weeks later, this came out from US News & World Report:


By Marlene Lenthang

Brigham Young University on Friday disputed a Black Duke University volleyball players claims that she and her teammates were called racist slurs during a match, saying the schools investigation found no evidence of racial heckling.

BYU Athletics said in a statement Friday that following an “extensive review” into the Aug. 26 match, We have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event.”

Duke University starter Rachel Richardson had said on Twitter that she and other Black teammates were racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match.”

She said the comments grew into threats,” and made them feel unsafe.” The student-athlete further accused game officials and BYU coaching staff of failing to quickly stop the behavior. 

Her godmother, Lesa Pamplin, also posted about the event on Twitter, claiming Richardson was called the n-word every time she served.” Her Twitter account is now private. 

Richardsons mother, Gloria Richardson, previously said her daughter had called home crying after the game and was left “incredibly” fearful.

Friday’s announcement was a dramatic reversal of BYU’s initial response to the claims.

Following the match at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo before a crowd of 5,000 people, BYU Athletics banned a fan believed to have said the slurs and issued statements condemning the behavior.

In their latest statement, the department said that ban is lifted.

“We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity,” the statement said, adding, “BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.” As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation,” the statement said.

NBC News has reached out to Richardson’s family members for comment on the new statement.

BYU also addressed any potential skepticism to their findings.

There will be some who assume we are being selective in our review,” the statement said. “To the contrary, we have tried to be as thorough as possible in our investigation, and we renew our invitation for anyone with evidence contrary to our findings to come forward and share it.”

Duke University Vice President and Director of Athletics Nina King doubled down in defense of Richardson and her teammates.

The 18 members of the Duke University volleyball team are exceptionally strong women who represent themselves, their families, and Duke University with the utmost integrity,” King said. “We unequivocally stand with and champion them, especially when their character is called into question.”

“Duke Athletics believes in respect, equality, and inclusiveness, and we do not tolerate hate and bias,” she said.


I’m assuming this situation will fade from the front pages and the 24/7 news cycles, and soon it will become a distant memory.

I believe that is exactly the wrong track. It’s the reason I chose to discuss it in this post; we should learn from this situation and deal directly with this.

Someone or some people in this story are duplicitous and if we fail to address these types of problems, we are doomed to repeat them.

Either (A) A young Black athlete was verbally abused by racists and left on an island, trying to perform in an openly hostile environment without the much-needed support of her coaches, her teammates, the officials at the game, or BYU event officials. Furthermore, BYU is overtly covering up for racist behavior.

Or (B) This athlete simply did not tell the truth.

My staff and Leanna’s teammates would have absolutely NEVER allowed a similar thing to happen to Leanna. We would have stopped the game and even forfeited the game if the situation was not corrected. I can’t imagine one official that ever worked our games that would have not helped us in stopping that kind of verbal abuse. Even in 1987, the subsequent negative press that would have been thrust upon the game officials, the opposing team, crowd, or event management for the failure to act in a civilized way and for being the catalyst that caused the game to be stopped or forfeited would have been immense.

I believe it is absolutely imperative that we determine what the truth is.

Either it is a significant failure on the part of Duke, BYU, and the officials at the game in their inability to keep this young woman safe, and there must be consequences for their inaction. Or these serious racial claims are false, and this athlete must be publicly reprimanded and consequences handed out for her duplicity.

I will leave the severity of the consequences to others, but this should not, and I believe must not, be swept under the rug. The ramifications are too significant.

Alleged victims must be taken seriously and their complaints, if proven true, must be rectified and justice served. False claims must also be addressed and justice also delivered. In a functioning society, we need consequences for behavior that diminishes or has disdain for decency and civil discourse. I do not claim to know who the victim is or who the perpetrator is in this instance, but enough doubt has been created in my mind to call for a thorough investigation to refurbish the public’s trust.

We must expect and demand more from our institutions and our leaders. These types of situations are bellwethers of sorts for our culture at large. By manipulating or shaping the narrative in one direction or the other, we do real damage to our young people and our way of life. The truth… wherever it leads us… needs to be our guiding principle. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are not yet born deserve nothing less.


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