Dawn Staley slams critics' hurtful narratives about South Carolina's women's basketball team: "We're not thugs"

Dawn Staley
Dawn Staley
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University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley lambasted the media for its harsh criticism of her team and its style of play. In a press conference following the Gamecocks’ 77-73 loss to Iowa in the national semifinal on Friday (March 31), she said the narratives of Black stereotypic tropes are hurtful and wrong.

When asked by a reporter what was true about the team, she said, “We’re not bar fighters. We’re not thugs. We’re not monkeys. We’re not street fighters. This team exemplifies how you need to approach basketball on the court and off the court.” On Tuesday (March 28), Iowa coach Lisa Bluder compared South Carolina’s approach to rebounds to that of people in a bar brawl.

Staley and her roster of athletes’ prowess on the court has been described as overly physical, aggressive, and even combative. Instead of being seen as having the drive to win, the two-time National Championship winner said the team’s portrayal is being used against them, sometimes in the form of biased referee calls and the public’s view of the players.

“I do think that that’s sometimes brought into the game, and it hurts, okay?” said Staley, who has coached the team for 14 seasons. “And I do think that some of — I’mma say it ‘cause I said I wasn’t going to say it — whether we lost or whether we won, some of the people in the media, when you’re gathering in public, you’re saying things about our team and you’re being heard. And it’s being brought back to me, okay? And these are the people who write nationally for our sport.”

She continued, “You can not like our team. You can not like me. But when you say things that you probably should be saying in your home, on the phone, or texting, [but you’re] out in public and you’re being heard, and you are a national writer for our sport, it just confirms what we already know. So, watch what you say when you’re in public and you’re talking about my team in particular. Just watch what you say about our team because it’s wrong. You got young lives who are really — if you really knew them, if you really knew them like you really want to know other players that represent this game, you would think differently.”

In her parting words, the 1999 No. 9 WNBA draft pick told critics, “Don’t judge us by the color of our skin, okay? Judge us by how we approach the game, and you may not like how we play the game… that’s the way we play. That’s the way I coach. I’m not changing. We found success in it. And maybe some days, like today, we end up on the losing side of the stick. But guess what? We live to see another day. We live to see the comeback next year and try to do this again, but I’m not changing. I’m not changing, but I hear you.”

See some of the reactions to Staley’s remarks below.