Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale apologizes after accusations of racist, insensitive comments

Ryan Young
·4 mins read

Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale apologized in a statement on Sunday night after several former players called her out for insensitive and racist comments.

"To hear the concerns raised by my former student-athletes is disheartening, because it is clear that I have unknowingly caused harm to people I care deeply about," Coale said in a statement, via The Oklahoman.

"Over my career, I have taken pride in the work that I have done on the court and the commitment to the personal growth of the women I've been responsible for leading. While I have always had the intent of expressing care for others, it is clear that there have been moments where my intent has not been the same as my impact — for that, I sincerely apologize."

Former players call out Coale on Twitter

The accusations first surfaced on Friday when former Sooners player Gioya Carter — who played at Oklahoma from 2013-17 — responded to a photo of Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley speaking out on social injustice after the team marched through campus.

She included a pair of comments she alleged Coale made during her time with the program, too.

Carter wasn’t alone, either. At least eight other former players stood by her, including former Big 12 Freshman of the Year Shaina Pellington — who transferred out of the program the following season.

“It pains me to see so many of my fellow teammates and alumni share the same experiences that I did at the University of Oklahoma,” she wrote, in part. “You keep asking us, what happened? You ask us publicly, but most of you privately. Some of us are brave enough to share our stories, and when we do you fail to LISTEN. It’s hard to believe that your favorite coaches and institutions would be capable of such horrendous things, right? Well news flash, IT’S VERY POSSIBLE.

“It happened to me, as well as many of my former teammates.”

One former player, who spoke to ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel anonymously, said that Coale yelled at her to take down a photo she had posted from their team trip to the Monticello plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia. The photo included the former slave quarters at Thomas Jefferson’s home at the plantation.

"How could she yell at me for something like this when she took us there?" the player said. "It was all very crushing for me that people that looked like me went through this. How could she not see the difference of perception that there was by taking your mainly Black basketball team to a plantation? She is a great speaker and a good ball coach, but her program needs reform."

Oklahoma AD ‘committed to listening’

Coale has been with the Sooners since 1996, and compiled an impressive 501-282 overall record. She’s led the program to three Final Fours and six Big 12 regular season titles. They had reached the NCAA tournament 19-straight seasons before the streak snapped in 2019. Coale has finished with a losing record in each of the last two seasons, her first since her first two years in Norman.

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione issued a statement this weekend, too, saying he did not know about this issue before Friday.

"We are committed to listening," Castiglione said, via The Oklahoman. "Throughout her 24 years of collegiate coaching, Coach Coale has demonstrated tremendous character and a consistent record of advocating for her student-athletes. I know Coach Coale — along with the rest of the women's basketball program leadership — joins me in eagerly availing ourselves to further engage in these important conversations.

“My hope is that we can move forward and work together in building greater understanding as we constantly strive to be better.”

Several former players called out Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale for racist and insensitive comments on Twitter last weekend. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Several former players called out Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale for racist and insensitive comments on Twitter last weekend. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

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