". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


With Trans Stance, Coach Staley Abandons the Women She Led to Victory

April 8, 2024

It was the finale to an epic, lightning-in-a-bottle run. With 18,000 people on their feet, the lady Gamecocks raised their arms in the air — their undefeated season complete. To the 14.2 million Americans watching Iowa’s Caitlin Clark dish and shoot her way into the record books Sunday, women’s basketball was a revelation. This last match-up, an electric end to the frenzy over girls’ hoops, was the start of something big. An explosion in the women’s game that could change the trajectory of female athletes forever. Only one thing could ruin this moment. And thanks to winning Coach Dawn Staley, it did.

A day before the emotional Staley was stuffing confetti into her pockets as a memento, she was taking questions from an unusually large press pool — another sign that the women’s game had taken the country by storm. OutKick’s Dan Zaksheske asked the South Carolina coach her opinion on the raging debate in America: whether biological boys should be allowed to compete as girls.

Staley, who’s taken heat from the Left for her outspoken Christian faith, stunned reporters by replying like a dyed-in-the wool extremist: “I’m of the opinion of, if you’re a woman, you should play. If you consider yourself a woman, and you want to play sports or vice versa, you should be able to play. That’s my opinion,” she said. “You want me to go deeper?” Zaksheske followed up more specifically, asking if Staley thought “transgender[-identifying] women should be able to participate in women’s college basketball.”

Her jaw-dropping response? “Yes.” “That’s the question you want to ask? I’ll give you that. Yes, yes.” Then, acknowledging the bombshell she just dropped, Staley played the martyr. “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 okay with that,” she added. “I really am.”

The number of people not okay with Staley’s response lit up social media immediately. After all, this is a woman whose team is fueling one of the biggest sports storylines of the decade, and she chose this moment, this seismic shift in the popularity of female athletes, to throw her girls — and girls everywhere — under the bus.

And it wasn’t just a betrayal of the game, it was a betrayal of her personal witness. By turning her back on basic biology and biblical truth, Staley, who’s being threatened with a lawsuit for professing God in interviews, cast a long shadow over her credibility as a Christian and an ambassador of women. Based on the backlash, a lot of her followers probably feel like NCAA athlete Macy Petty does: stung. “The future of women’s sports isn’t women if it’s led by a bunch of cowards,” she posted bluntly.

Staley’s comments were so breathtaking that some news personalities wondered if she actually meant it. “Does she really believe what she’s saying?” Fox and Friends’ Brian Kilmeade asked former NCAA All-American Riley Gaines. “It’s okay for a transgender athlete to play against her women?”

Gaines, who’s become the face of women’s sports advocacy after competing against Lia Thomas in 2022, said Staley couldn’t possibly agree with an agenda that would hurt her girls and drive the sport into extinction. “Look,” she said, “I love and respect Dawn Staley. [She’s won] two championships in three years at South Carolina. I think her record is 109-3. That’s unprecedented. So clearly, she’s great at what she does. And she’s developed many incredible athletes whom I admire. But she’s either proven … to be entirely incompetent or a sellout.”

“And personally,” Gaines continued, “I don’t think she believes what she said. If you watch the video,” she insists, “her silence, the hesitation, and that drink of water, I think it spoke volumes. I think she knew she had to be politically correct. And I know about as good as anyone that that pressure exists and it’s real. But the bottom line is, she knows perfectly well that men’s basketball, it’s a totally different sport than women’s basketball. That’s obvious by the speed of the game, the size of the ball, the sheer amount of layups in women’s basketball compared to dunks … the distance of the three point line, the list goes on.”

Staley knows this from playing the game at an elite level herself. She’s a Hall of Famer, a three-time gold medalist for Team USA, even voted one of the top 15 women in 15 years in the WNBA. So imagine in her day, Gaines said, “if Karl Malone or David Robinson woke up one morning and said, ‘I feel like a woman today.’ We would have no idea who Dawn Staley is. It’s always funny to me how these things become okay to those who it has no influence upon. Dawn knows, [good] and well that she would never be a Hall of Famer if she played against men, period. So it’s irresponsible and unfair for her and other retired female players like Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe, Billie Jean King … to conveniently say they’re now okay with this, because what they’re doing is pulling up the ladder behind them.”

Others, who’ve had the chance to shine in pro sports before the transgender stampede, took offense to Staley’s treason. Former WNBA player Val Whiting, a two-time NCAA champion at Stanford, was appalled that the South Carolina coach would use her influence to sabotage the game. “… [T]rans women do not belong in women’s sports,” Whiting wrote. “It’s not fair nor safe for biological women. There has to be another solution for trans women to be able to compete athletically besides having them compete against biological women.”

Until now, the chaos of transgenderism hasn’t seemed to infect women’s basketball with the same ferocity as other NCAA sports. High school hoops has certainly seen its share of dramatic storylines — most of them devastating. In February, Massachusetts Charter School of Lowell was even forced to forfeit a game after a biological boy from KIIP Academy injured three of their girls in the first half alone. It’s only a matter of time before this agenda starts creeping into the collegiate program, especially now that social justice warriors like Staley have thrown the door wide open.

“Someone should propose to Coach Staley that instead of being named national champs, her team needs to play the winner of UConn vs. Purdue [men’s championship game],” Family Research Council’s Mary Szoch told The Washington Stand. “After that game, we’ll see how she feels about biological men playing women’s basketball.”

The former Division I basketball player insists that Staley’s “arrogance is putting girls in danger and causing others to abandon their dream of being an athlete. … Whether they realize it or not, Coach Staley’s prideful comments and those who have put what she’s calling for into action continue to reinforce the notion that in life, women [like Caitlin Clark] should always come in second — or maybe women should just stay in the kitchen.”

When Szoch played at Notre Dame, she explained that part of their training was to practice against male players every day. “These guys were all former high school basketball players. They were good — but not one of them was a Division I recruit. Even with the advantages of film, a strength and conditioning coach, and drawn-up plays, we’d frequently lose to them, and we were the second-best women’s team in the country,” she pointed out. “I suspect the same is true of Coach Staley’s team — and every other competitive women’s Division I team. It doesn’t help anyone to pretend otherwise.”

While Clark’s coach, Iowa’s Lisa Bluder, refused to answer the question on trans sports, her silence did almost the same damage. “I understand it’s a topic that people are interested in,” she said. “But today my focus is on the game tomorrow. … But I know it’s an important issue for another time.”

What she and others fail to realize is that there may not be another time. The longer the leaders of the sport give men an opening to commandeer it, the more inevitable that moment becomes. “If men are playing next year in the women’s NCAA tournament, perhaps that will change her mind,” FRC’s Meg Kilgannon told TWS of Staley. “But this year or any year is a terrible time to sell out women’s sports by supporting male athletes taking the roster spots of women athletes and sexually harassing their ‘teammates’ in the locker room just by showing up.”

Of course, none of this would be a question if Charlie Baker’s NCAA would man up and do something about it. As the new president, he’s had a full year to rewrite the collegiate rules and level the women’s playing field. But in a stunning letter to the U.S. Senate, he admits that the association hasn’t even bothered to investigate the effects of their radical rules in the first place. “The NCAA has never studied the harm of its policy allowing males identifying as women to participate and compete on women’s teams,” Baker conceded. Instead, they’ve stood by and let men yank the opportunities, records, and trophies right out of girls’ hands.

In the meantime, Gaines said, “I can’t help but be bummed for those girls knowing that Dawn Staley would trade any of them for a mediocre boy with an identity crisis.”

At the end of the day, the swimmer wanted people to know, “[Staley] didn’t have the courage to stand with women. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her, and she blew it. And truthfully, my guess is she’s okay with it until her team is defeated by one or more men playing on the opposite team.” (Later, Gaines revealed that she, like other public figures who’d openly criticized the coach since Saturday, had been blocked.)

Deep down, Staley has to understand the anguish her answer has caused. In 30 seconds, she did more to damage women’s basketball than her 30-year career ever did to advance it. And maybe one day, she’ll regret those words — but it’ll be too late. Because if there was ever a time to harness the country's enthusiasm and turn it into a rallying cry for girls’ sports, it was now.

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.