Dawn Staley defends herself, USC fans amidst allegations from Missouri AD
COLUMBIA, S.C. (ESPN) — South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley defended the team’s fan base on Wednesday, one day after Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said members of the Tigers women’s basketball team were spit on and called a racial slur by fans after a game Sunday in Columbia, South Carolina.
“The accusations are serious and false, and they will be handled in the manner reflective of those facts,” Staley told reporters. “Our fans are great. They’re loyal. They’re passionate. They understand basketball. They understand how to act in the stands. If I could uproot them and put them in every women’s basketball arena, every coach that represents that particular fan base would be tremendously proud of what they bring to the table.
“I stand by our fans. I stand by what they represent. I stand by how they cheer. I stand by every single thing that they bring to the building because it’s appropriate and well within game rules.”
On Tuesday, Sterk faulted Staley for promoting an atmosphere that allowed the behavior to allegedly happen.
“It wasn’t a great atmosphere. It was really kind of unhealthy, if you will,” Sterk told “The Big Show” on KTGR radio. “We had players spit on and called the N-word and things like that. It was not a good environment. And unfortunately I think Coach Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere, and it’s unfortunate that she felt she had to do that.”
No. 9 South Carolina beat No. 11 Missouri 64-54 in a heated contest that included an on-court tussle at Colonial Life Arena — where fans booed the Tigers throughout the night — and two Mizzou ejections.
Afterward, a former Missouri player who was with the team in South Carolina tweeted that Tigers players were spit on as they left the court. Asked about what happened Tuesday, Missouri coach Robin Pingeton called it “unfortunate” without detailing what exactly occurred.
“I was really disappointed with some things that transpired,” she said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There’s no place in our game for that. Fans got to be better all around. Our side, their side, everybody’s side. Fans got to be better. These are daughters playing a game they love to play. There were certainly some things that were really unfortunate that transpired, not only verbally and some other things [spitting] you alluded to. It’s really unfortunate. But you’ve got two fan bases that are passionate and just got to clean it up a little bit.”
South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said he spoke to Sterk on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I do believe a retraction is necessary from Jim Sterk’s comments,” he told reporters at a news conference. “I was very confused that Coach Staley was addressed from Jim Sterk’s comments. I still don’t quite understand exactly what the intent was.”
Tanner said his department conducted a review after learning of the allegations.
“I was very confused,” he said. “I felt very strongly about what we stand for here at this university and women’s basketball, our fan base, our head coach and the way we handle our business and have handled our business over the years. And some things were said that were very confusing.”
Tanner said the school did not find evidence or confirmation of the incident.