A Utah coach says her team had to switch hotels after racist attacks during the NCAA Tournament

The University of Utah women's basketball coach said her team was the target of a series of “racist hate crimes” after arriving in Idaho for the NCAA Tournament last week. She added that these events prompted the team to change hotels for their safety.

Utah coach Len Roberts He told reporters The team of black, white and Latino athletes were involved in several incidents Thursday night after arriving in the Spokane area for a tournament where they faced Gonzaga University. Roberts did not go into detail about these incidents, but he said they were concerned enough to request a transfer from their hotel in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to a location closer to Spokane.

“Racism is real, it happens, and it is terrible,” Roberts told reporters on Monday. “For our players, whether they were white, black, green or whatever, no one knew how to handle it. And it was really upsetting. For our players and staff to not feel safe in an NCAA Tournament environment, it's chaotic.”

Roberts added that the NCAA and host school Gonzaga worked to move the team to a different hotel. Neither Roberts nor the Women's Athletics Department immediately responded to a request for comment.

The Utah Utes celebrate after a basket against South Dakota State on Saturday.Steve Chambers/Getty Images

Utah State's deputy athletics director, Sharmell Green, who is black, He told KSL News in Salt Lake City That the band, along with band members and fans, were walking to a local restaurant for dinner when someone in a white truck pulled up to the group, revved its engine, and shouted the N-word before speeding away.

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“We were all in shock, and we looked at each other, 'Did we just hear that?' Green said. “We kept walking, shaking our heads and saying, ‘I can’t believe it.’”

The team continued into the evening. Then, as they were leaving the restaurant, two trucks approached them, the drivers revved their engines and shouted the N-word.

“I got emotional and started crying,” Green told KSL. “I was numb all night.”

The team was staying in Idaho, about 35 minutes from Spokane, Wash., where it was scheduled to play during the opening weekend of the tournament. Utah was one of three teams staying in Idaho instead of Washington due to a lack of hotel space in the Spokane area, where Gonzaga is located. Utah State athletic director Mark Harlan lamented the arrangement, telling KSL: “We shouldn't have been there.”


Utah coach Len Roberts speaks Monday in Spokane.Young Kwak/AP

Gonzaga University officials acknowledged the situation in A Joint statement on social media.

“Gonzaga University has been made aware of racially offensive comments made to visiting student-athletes and members of a travel group in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, prior to NCAA women's basketball first and second round games in the past few days.” The statement began.

“Hate speech in any form is abhorrent and shameful and should never be tolerated. We have worked hard to secure the opportunity to serve as a host organization, and our first priority is and must be the safety and well-being of all student-athletes, coaches, families and support staff. To that end, we have worked closely with with the NCAA and program participants to support the security and safety of all participants.We are frustrated and deeply saddened to learn that what should always be an amazing visitor and tournament experience has been compromised in any way by this situation, as it in no way reflects the values, standards and beliefs that we hold Our responsibility at Gonzaga University.

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