GRAND FORKS -- In a lengthy Twitter post, former UND volleyball player Brynn Nieukirk said a video that recently surfaced of her using racist language was recorded while singing lyrics to a song, and she said she was not dismissed from the team, but left voluntarily.
Nieukirk also apologized for using the racist word and said it was "immature and insensitive."
UND announced last week that Nieukirk and Julia Vetter both parted ways with the program after an uproar about the video, which Nieukirk said was recorded in January and resurfaced earlier this month.
Nieukirk wrote in detail about the incident.
She said: "In January of this year, a University of North Dakota Volleyball teammate and I were alone in a car and we recorded ourselves singing a hip hop song by an African-American artist. The lyrics in the song included the use of the N-word. Regrettably, we sang the song including the inappropriate lyrics as written and forwarded the video to a single friend who watched it on his phone. While the use of the word was not directed at anyone or said with hate or malice, singing lyrics that included that word was immature and insensitive. Even in this context, use of that word was inappropriate.
"A person standing behind the friend who received the video recorded a second video of our friend's phone while he was watching the recording. This second video was cropped to include only the inappropriate section and then shared on social media and ultimately brought to the attention of University administration. An investigation was conducted by the University and we admitted that singing those lyrics and using that word was inappropriate. The University determined that we did not break their Student Code of Conduct or Athletic Code but we all agreed there should be consequences from singing the song in the video because we were student athletes and represented the University.
"Several months later in the wake of George Floyd protests, the video resurfaced as a result of complaints made by an African-American student athlete at the University. Also, there were manufactured Snapchat messages that surfaced that neither my teammate nor I said or typed. We reported this to the University of North Dakota and they told us there have been other complaints of this happening to other athletes but they were not able to determine who was impersonating us.
"Immediately, I contacted my coach and asked if we could have a face to face discussion with the complaining student athlete so I could apologize, understand his perspective and work together to move forward. I was told that we needed to "let this blow over." After receiving a lot of hate messages and threats, I made the decision to step away from the University for my physical and emotional safety. I was not dismissed from the UND Volleyball team. I also was never asked to leave the team or University; in fact, I was asked to stay. The media in both North Dakota and my home town have reported this story but, unfortunately, I was never asked for a comment. As a result, there have been many misrepresentations and lies reported instead of the facts.
"I again apologize for singing those lyrics and the pain this has caused. I have never lived with hate in my heart for anyone. I have learned and grown from this and will continue to do so."
The situation resurfaced this month after UND used Nieukirk's image on a promotional poster and UND football player Jaxson Turner called out the school for doing so on Twitter.
UND initially released a statement admitting it was a mistake to use Nieukirk's image in the wake of the video.
A couple of days later, UND released a statement saying Nieukirk and Vetter were no longer on the team.
"In the winter of 2020, a racially insensitive video emerged featuring two UND volleyball student-athletes," UND volleyball coach Jeremiah Tiffin said in a statement June 5. "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."
UND athletic director Bill Chaves also said in that statement: "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."
Nieukirk, a 6-foot-2 hitter from Washington, Ill., finished with 84 kills last year. Vetter, a setter from Fargo, had 380 assists.