Anne Photograp News 2024

Coeur d’Alene prosecutors won’t file charges after racial slur was aimed at Utah women’s basketball team

Coeur d’Alene prosecutors won’t file charges after racial slur was aimed at Utah women’s basketball team

Young Kwak/AP

Players and staff from Utah’s women’s basketball team watch on during the NCAA Tournament.


Following an investigation of a racist slur directed at the Utah women’s basketball team in Idaho ahead of the NCAA tournament, the Coeur d’Alene prosecutor’s office opted not to file charges related to the incident.

Chief deputy city attorney Ryan Hunter said in a written decision, which is dated May 3, that there would be no criminal prosecution because of “insufficient evidence to establish probable cause as to every element of any of the potential offense(s) without reliance on First Amendment protected speech.”

According to the complaint review written by Hunter, the Coeur d’Alene Police Department was able to interview nearly two dozen witnesses and compiled hours of surveillance video. Police were able to identify four people who were in a vehicle, where authorities say one of them made an offensive statement.

In the review, Hunter wrote that an 18-year-old male high school student initially admitted to using the N-word toward the team but later tried to retract part of his police confession. Hunter wrote in his decision that, while he condemned the use of the teen’s comment, the chief deputy city attorney could not find probable cause that the conduct – shouting out of a moving vehicle at a group of people – was either disturbing the peace under state law or disorderly conduct under the Coeur d’Alene municipal code.

‘Clearly audible’ racial slur aimed at Utah women’s basketball team ahead of NCAA tournament, police say

Hunter wrote in the charging decision that the prosecutor’s office shares in the “outrage sparked by” the teen’s “abhorrently racist and misogynistic statement, and we join in unequivocally condemning that statement and the use of a racial slur in this case, or in any circumstance . However, that cannot, under current law, form the basis for criminal prosecution in this case.”

In March, Utah was staying at a hotel in Coeur d’Alene ahead of the Utes’ opening NCAA tournament game when the incident took place. Team officials said at the time that the incident left the players “deeply troubled and shaking.”

Utah was staying in Coeur d’Alene because of limited hotel space in Spokane, Washington, where the Utes’ games were being held. The team was eventually moved to a hotel in Spokane when space became available.

Police had identified an audio recording in which the use of a racial slur was clearly audible and had said it was examining the context and conduct associated with its use to determine if it was a violation of law.

According to a statement from Utah officials at the time, the team was on its way to dinner when a vehicle drove past and “shouted racial epithets at the group.”

Later, when the team was on its way back from dinner, a vehicle drove slowly past the group, “revving its engine” while the occupants again shouted “racially disparaging words and threats,” the statement said.

According to Hunter’s written report, there is no audio evidence captured of any vehicles “revving” their engines and no audio evidence of the racial slur being used when the team was walking to dinner, though police say five credible eyewitnesses confirm the slur was made.

The slur could be heard in surveillance video when the team left dinner and was walking back to the Coeur d’Alene Resort.