Dawn Staley supports transgender athletes playing women’s sports amid lawsuit against NCAA

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley was asked a pointed question about transgender athletes during her Saturday press conference, a day before her Gamecocks face Iowa in the NCAA Tournament championship game.

Staley, the South Carolina head coach of 16 years, answered in the affirmative when pressed by OutKick on whether she thinks transgender women should be able to compete in women’s sports.

She paused before saying, “Damn, you got deep on me, didn’t you? I’m of the opinion that if you’re a woman, you should play,” Staley said.

“If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports or vice versa, you should be able to play,” Staley added. “That’s my opinion.”

South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley speaks to the media on the eve of the NCAA championship game between Iowa and South Carolina. Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

Staley then elaborated on her initial response when she was asked if transgender women should be able to compete.

“That’s the question you want to ask, I’ll give you that. Yes, yes,” Staley said. “So now the barnstormer people are going to flood my timeline and be a distraction to me on one of the biggest days of our game, and I’m OK with that. I really am.”

After her press conference, Staley received a mix of responses, including praise from her former player Markeshia Grant, a guard for South Carolina from 2010-12.

“Love that my Coach is inclusive and accepting of everyone! I love that there is no limitations to how much she is able to empathize and connect with other HUMANS! I love that she is authentically herself and will always be a voice for the voiceless,” Grant wrote in a post on X.

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder was also asked the same question on Saturday but declined to give a direct answer.

“I understand it’s a topic that people are interested in. But today my focus is on the game tomorrow, my players” Bluder said. “It’s an important game we have tomorrow, and that’s what I want to be here to talk about. But I know it’s an important issue for another time.”

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks looks on during an open practice session ahead of the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four National Championship at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on April 06, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. Getty Images

Under the NCAA’s policy, transgender athletes are allowed to compete under guidelines determined by each sport.

“NCAA policy calls for transgender student-athlete participation for each sport to be determined by the policy for the national governing body of that sport,” the NCAA wrote in 2022. “If there is no NGB policy for a sport, it would then be determined by the policy for that sport’s international federation. If there is no international federation policy, it would be determined by policy criteria previously established by the International Olympic Committee.”

In August 2022, an NCAA policy went into effect that said transgender athletes must submit documentation “plus meet the sport standard for documented testosterone levels.”

In March, 16 athletes sued the NCAA for allowing transgender athletes to compete in collegiate athletics, with the suit centering on University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas.

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks looks on during an open practice session ahead of the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four National Championship. Getty Images

The March Madness championship between undefeated South Carolina and Iowa, which is seeking avenge after last year’s loss to LSU in the title game, is set for Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.


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