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Police investigating racial harassment at Idaho NCAA women’s basketball team


SPOKANE, WA – MARCH 25: Alissa Pili #35 of the Utah Utes against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during a second round game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament on March 25, 2024 in Spokane, WA team’s appearance before the game. (Photo by Stephen Chambers/Getty Images)

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SPOKANE, WA – MARCH 25: Alissa Pili #35 of the Utah Utes against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during a second round game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament on March 25, 2024 in Spokane, WA team’s appearance before the game. (Photo by Stephen Chambers/Getty Images)

Stephen Chambers/Getty Images

Police and the FBI in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, are investigating a team from the NCAA women’s basketball tournament who say they were racially harassed during their stay in the city.

Members of the University of Utah women’s team told police that as players and staff were walking to dinner last Thursday, someone in a truck flying a Confederate flag yelled racial slurs and revved the engine in a threatening manner. They said the same truck and another truck were waiting. The group returned from dinner and followed them back to the hotel.

The Utah State and UC Irvine women’s teams remain in the northern Idaho town for a basketball tournament near Spokane, Washington.

“It’s really frustrating,” Utah head coach Lynn Rogers said. “It’s a real mess for our players and staff not to have a sense of security in an NCAA tournament environment.”

The NCAA said it is working with the team and tournament host Gonzaga University to provide additional security for the team. The Utah team moved to a hotel in Spokane the next day. UC Irvine returns home Saturday after being eliminated from the tournament.

“I strongly condemn the appalling treatment of female college athletes who visited Coeur d’Alene before the start of the Spokane basketball tournament,” Coeur d’Alene Mayor Jim Hammond said at a news conference Tuesday.

The incident occurred in a region of the Pacific Northwest that was once synonymous with hate groups and has recently seen a rise in extremism even among elected officials. Coeur d’Alene and northern Idaho became a haven for extremist and racist groups in the region. The Aryan Nations moved its headquarters there in the 1970s and 1980s. Skinheads marched in the 1990s. Activity declined after the lawsuit, but two summers ago, 31 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front were arrested there planning to disrupt a queer pride event.

“This is another example for those who falsely claim racism is no longer a problem. They are wrong,” Tony Stewart of the Kootenai County Human Relations Task Force said at a news conference broadcast on KXLY television.

“We are witnessing the disturbing growth of individual and organized extremist groups in toxic environments across our country and locally to promote hatred in many forms,” ​​Stewart said.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little, Gonzaga and the NCAA issued statements condemning the incident.

Local police are working with the FBI on the investigation and are asking more than 100 people who may have witnessed the harassment to report what they saw.



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