Police investigating racial harassment of NCAA women's basketball team in Idaho Police are investigating reported harassment of the University of Utah women's basketball team while staying in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, for the NCAA tournament in nearby Spokane, Wash.

Police investigating racial harassment of NCAA women's basketball team in Idaho

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

The FBI and police in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, are investigating a disturbing incident. Players staying there for the NCAA women's basketball tournament say they were racially harassed while walking in the town. Troy Oppie with Boise State Public Radio reports.

TROY OPPIE, BYLINE: Members of the University of Utah women's team told police someone in a truck displaying a Confederate flag yelled racial slurs and menacingly revved the engine as players and staff walked to dinner last Thursday. They say that same truck and a second were waiting as the team returned from dinner and followed them back to their hotel. Utah and the women's team from the University of California, Irvine, were staying in the north Idaho town as part of the NCAA women's basketball tournament in nearby Spokane, Wash. Lynne Rogers (ph) is Utah's head coach.

LYNNE ROBERTS: It was really upsetting, and for our players and staff to not feel safe in an NCAA tournament environment, it's messed up.

OPPIE: The NCAA worked with tournament site host Gonzaga University to get teams extra security. Utah was relocated to a hotel in Spokane the next day. UC Irvine returned home Saturday after being eliminated. Yesterday, Coeur d'Alene Mayor Jim Hammond called a press conference.

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JIM HAMMOND: I strongly condemn the appalling treatment of the female college athletes who were visiting Coeur d'Alene prior to the beginning of the basketball tournament in Spokane.

OPPIE: Coeur d'Alene and the north Idaho panhandle became known as a haven for extremism and racist groups in the 1970s and '80s, when the Aryan Nations relocated its headquarters there. Skinheads held parades in the 1990s. Activity declined following a lawsuit, but two summers ago, 31 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front were arrested there with plans to disrupt a Pride event.

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TONY STEWART: This is another example to those individuals who claim incorrectly that racism is no longer a problem.

OPPIE: Tony Stewart, with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, also spoke at yesterday's press conference, carried by KXLY television.

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STEWART: We are witnessing a troubling growth of a very toxic environment in our country and locally by individuals and organized extremist groups to advance many forms of hatred.

OPPIE: Idaho Governor Brad Little, Gonzaga University and the NCAA released statements condemning the incident. Local police are working with the FBI to investigate and asking the 100-some people who may have been in the area to report anything they saw.

For NPR News, I'm Troy Oppie in Boise.

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