GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota has parted ways with the two volleyball players involved in a video which included a racial slur — an incident that came to light earlier this week.
“In the winter of 2020, a racially insensitive video emerged featuring two UND volleyball student-athletes," UND volleyball coach Jeremiah Tiffin said. "When I became aware of the situation, UND athletics investigated and addressed the student behavior. After much thought and consideration, it has been mutually agreed upon by me and the two student-athletes that they will not return to the UND volleyball program. Today’s decision considers recent events and sincere conversations I have had with these students and we feel that this is the best solution for all involved. I remain committed to further educating our student-athletes on diversity and inclusion and doing better on behalf of our institution.”
Junior Brynn Nieukirk and junior Julia Vetter will no longer be with the program. Nieukirk, a 6-foot-2 hitter from Washington, Ill., finished with 84 kills last year. Vetter, a setter from Fargo, had 380 assists.
UND athletic director Bill Chaves said: “I support the decision that was made today with UND volleyball. I have listened and will continue to listen to our student-athletes, faculty, staff and community as a whole, and I am dedicated to working together to foster a safe, welcoming space for everyone. We value a diverse and inclusive environment and will strive to continually improve in this area through persistent work on the culture of our department.”
The UND athletic department admitted earlier this week it made a mistake in putting Nieukirk on a season-ticket advertising graphic.
The school responded after being called out by football player Jaxson Turner, who tweeted that he was "extremely disappointed in @undsports for using an athlete that was filmed using racial slurs... This is never acceptable but especially during a time like this. This video was brought to your attention and this athlete shouldn't be the face of UND athletics."
After Turner's tweet, UND deleted the promotional poster from social media.
Turner later continued: "There needs to be a solution for an issue this major on our campus. Let’s work together to fix this so it never happens again at UND." Turner tagged Chaves and UND president Andrew Armacost, who is in his second day on the job, in his tweet.
Chaves wrote in response: "I take full responsibility and apologize for the situation with this marketing piece. Simply, I need to do better. I look forward to continue to work with our student-athletes to make our department better every day."
The issue came about at a time when people across the world — including on UND's campus — are urging society to tackle racial justice issues in the wake George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody last week.