Mar 26, 2024 - Sports

Utah women's basketball team switched hotels in Idaho during NCAA tourney after racist incidents

A blonde woman at a microphone during a March Madness news conference.

Utes' head coach Lynne Roberts speaks at a news conference Monday in Spokane, Wash. Photo: Myk Crawford/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The University of Utah women's basketball team switched hotels last week after what their coach described as "racial hate crimes" in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho ahead of their NCAA tournament game at Gonzaga.

State of play: There were "several instances" of racism after the team arrived Thursday in northern Idaho, Utah head coach Lynne Roberts said during a news conference Monday following the Utes' loss to Gonzaga.

  • "It was really upsetting. For our players and staff to not feel safe in an NCAA tournament environment? It's messed up," Roberts said. "So we moved hotels."

Driving the news: The team, along with some cheerleaders and band members, was walking to a restaurant when a driver in a white truck revved the engine and yelled the N-word, KSL.com reported.

  • As the group started to leave the restaurant, two drivers revved their trucks' engines and yelled the N-word at them.
  • The students coordinated their return trip to the hotel to avoid walking alone or in small groups, U. athletic officials said.

The big picture: Northern Idaho has become a hub for white nationalists and other right-wing groups.

What they're saying: "People say, 'Man I can't believe that happened,'" Roberts said. "But, you know, racism is real, and it happens, and it's awful."

The intrigue: It's unclear why neither Gonzaga nor public officials responded to the racist encounters until Monday.

  • Roberts said that the NCAA and Gonzaga helped the Utes find a new hotel.
  • "We worked hard to secure the opportunity to serve as the host institution," Gonzaga officials wrote in a prepared statement Monday, adding that safety and security were their top priorities.

The Utes were lodged in Coeur d'Alene, about 30 miles from Gonzaga, because Spokane was short on hotel space, per the AP.

  • Several other teams also stayed across the state line. Gonzaga needed a waiver to host the tournament because Coeur d'Alene is more than 30 minutes' drive from the stadium.
  • The Utes eventually moved to rooms that were freed up in Spokane after some men's teams were eliminated, CNN reported Tuesday.

What we're watching: Officials from Coeur d'Alene and Kootenai County planned a news conference Tuesday morning to address Roberts' report.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include details of the alleged racist incidents.

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