The Dawn Staley lawsuit against Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk has been settled. South Carolina women’s basketball had a contentious few games against the Tigers this season. After the game in South Carolina, Sterk made allegations that Gamecocks fans had spit on and made racist comments towards Tiger players.
Each team won its home game in the season series this year. Sterk’s comments came after South Carolina’s 64-54 win at Colonial Life Arena. With his comments, he roped in Staley, saying that she helped foster the environment that led to the alleged fan behavior:
“It wasn’t a great atmosphere,” Sterk, who was sitting courtside, said of the game during an interview with a local radio outlet in Missouri. “It was really kind of unhealthy, if you will. 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.”
South Carolina says that it looked into the allegations, and found no evidence of any abusive fan behavior. From AD Ray Tanner:
“Upon hearing the accusations regarding our crowd’s behavior towards the Missouri team, the athletics department conducted a review of our operations from the game, including interviews with staff and security personnel,” he said. “In this review, we received no confirmation of the alleged behavior directed at the visiting team by fans at the game.”
Staley also had some pointed comments for Sterk after the game. She came to the defense of Gamecock fans:
“If I could uproot my fans and place them in any other arena, that coach would be tremendously proud,” Staley said. “I stand by our fans, by the way they cheer, by every single thing they bring to the arena.”
After Sterk did not apologize or retract his comments, Staley sued him for defamation. A settlement was reached today.
The Dawn Staley lawsuit resulted in a $50,000 settlement, in favor of the national championship-winning coach.
Half of the payment will be made to Staley’s INNERSOLE charity, with the other half covering lawyer fees. From WISTV.com:
The University of Missouri has settled a lawsuit brought against its Director of Athletics, Jim Sterk, by South Carolina Head Women’s Basketball Coach Dawn Staley for $50,000. One half of the settlement will be paid to Staley’s non-profit INNERSOLE and the other half of the settlement to her attorneys.
“Following a very spirited and intense game I attended in late January between the nationally ranked Missouri and South Carolina women’s basketball teams, I made comments in a local radio interview that were construed to suggest that Coach Staley promoted the negative experiences of racial epithets and spitting,” Sterk said. “I do not believe Coach Staley would promote such conduct, and I sincerely apologize to her for those comments.”
“I accept his apology and I appreciate the contribution of $25,000 to INNERSOLE, a not for profit organization I co-founded that provides new sneakers to children who are homeless or in need,” Staley said. “I’m glad we can share in support of this worthy cause and I look forward to moving past this with a continued spirited but positive competition amongst our programs.”
In accordance with University policy, the lawsuit settlement will be paid by the University since Sterk made his comments in good faith while performing his duties as a University employee.
Staley’s Gamecocks finished 29-7, and reached the Elite Eight this season. The team captured the national title in 2017.