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Dawn Staley’s Comments About Trans Athletes Should Be Respected

Dawn Staley’s Comments About Trans Athletes Should Be Respected | Photo: Sean Rayford via Getty Images
Dawn Staley’s Comments About Trans Athletes Should Be Respected | Photo: Sean Rayford via Getty Images

On the heels of another successful season for USC Gamecocks’ head coach Dawn Staley, she couldn’t escape some controversy. On April 7, the Gamecocks prepared to face Iowa in the NCAA Women’s Championship game. The Gamecocks had yet another undefeated season going up against offensive juggernaut Caitlin Clark. In the pre-game presser, Staley was asked about including trans women in women’s basketball. For context, she was asked this question by Dan Zaksheske of Outkick. He is known to rag on the notion of trans athletes participating in athletics.

Staley responded, “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.” Her response sent off a media firestorm on both ends. We must allow people to have their views whichever way you fall on the issue. In this instance, the case at hand doesn’t hold any societal ramifications that affect our safety. So Staley’s comments should be respected as her own.

I don’t agree with how the coach sees the issue. Sports are an exhibition of ability and discipline on an anatomically leveled playing field. It’s why we have separate women’s and men’s sports leagues. It’s because of the difference in our make-up. So even though trans athletes make up such a small percentage of athletes in this country, they should still be considered. Where I differ is that I think trans athletes should compete against one another on yet another anatomically leveled playing field. It wouldn’t mean in certain instances that there couldn’t be an intermingling of these athletes in sports. For instance, see doubles tennis for example. Men’s teams face women’s teams many times in that sport because tennis isn’t considered a contact sport.

Unfortunately, Staley came across a rather tactless reporter, who sought to throw her off her game. It’s unfair that Staley, of all the coaches who coached throughout the tournament, was subjected to this question. However, I respect her willingness to stand in her truth and answer honestly.

Additionally, the emotion you see on Staley’s face upon the Gamecocks’ win wasn’t only a result of their triumph. After all, she completed an undefeated season with a championship. But understand, her dealing with a known troll of a reporter in the pre-game added to that. She understands our nation’s climate and the potential for negative press that could stand from her comments. Then and still, she was true to herself, and once again, rallied her team to a win.

We have to be fairer to one another. The conversation about trans athletes participating in team sports should be ongoing. However, the questions should be framed constructively. A coach shouldn’t randomly be put on such a spot about an issue that has nothing to do with the game at hand. On such a monumental day in coach Staley’s career, another obstacle came. But just like a sharp Black woman, she rose to the occasion.