FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, April 8, 2024

CONTACT: Jennifer Bing, JBing@nclrights.org

WASHINGTON – On Sunday, April 7, the University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team won the NCAA National Championship. Ahead of the championship game, South Carolina’s head coach Dawn Staley made comments in support of transgender athlete inclusion in sports when she was pressed by a media member on the topic. Her remarks came ahead of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) voting Monday, April 8, to all but ban transgender women from women’s competitions starting next school year. 

A number of Black leaders in the LGBTQIA movement shared their messages of congratulations to Staley on her team’s success, and commended her support of trans athletes:

National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) CEO and Executive Director Dr. David J. Johns:

“NBJC extends a heartfelt congratulations to University of South Carolina Gamecocks’ head coach Dawn Staley upon winning the women’s college basketball national championship. Dawn’s remarkable leadership, on and off the court, has not only solidified her place in sports history but inspired countless individuals, particularly Black  women and girls, to pursue their dreams fearlessly.

“We also commend Coach Staley for her unwavering advocacy and support for transgender people in sports. In a time when transgender athletes face unjust scrutiny, discrimination, and exclusion from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, her courage to speak truth to power and in support of inclusion and fairness sets a powerful example for us all, and is a testament to her integrity and compassion. Coach Staley’s impact extends far beyond the basketball court, and we are deeply grateful for her leadership in championing equality and justice in sports. As a devout Christian, her remarks that all should be able to play echo Christ’s greatest commandment to love and treat your neighbor as yourself while modeling that inclusion and Christianity should go hand in hand.

“I hope other leaders are inspired by Coach Staley’s courage and conviction. Coach named the attempt to invite hate mongers to distract their team from their goal of winning the championship. Don’t fall for the manufactured gender wars. Let’s all get free, together.”

Human Rights Campaign (HRC)  President Kelley Robinson

“The Human Rights Campaign congratulates Coach Dawn Staley and the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team for their outstanding season and undefeated NCAA championship run. We also recognize Coach Staley for her leadership in championing the rights of all people, including transgender athletes. 

“Coach Staley has always been a trailblazer, but she’s also shown that true leadership is about advancing justice and equality for everyone. By expressing her full-throated support for transgender athletes’ inclusion in sports, she’s sending an important message – our shared humanity matters. 

“At a time when too many public figures and groups like the NAIA are stoking fear about transgender young people just trying to play, Coach Staley understands that the presence of trans athletes doesn’t diminish anyone else’s success – if anything, it expands our capacity for hope, fair play and mutual understanding.  It should be a lesson for the NCAA not to take a page out of the playbook of fearmongers. Women’s sports needs resources and funding, not discrimination and division.

“That kind of moral clarity and courage to do right is why Dawn Staley continues to inspire new generations. We congratulate her and the Gamecocks on an incredible season, and we thank Coach Staley for the leadership she shows both on and off the court.”

Family Equality President & CEO, Jaymes Black

“At a time when transgender people are being relentlessly targeted with anti-trans legislation and rhetoric, having strong advocates speak up is absolutely critical. And for someone to do it on a national stage with all eyes on them, it is significant. Coach Dawn Staley’s statement affirming her belief that transgender athletes should be allowed to play sports, is the call the LGTBQ+ community needs to hear right now. 

“As the University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball coach, Coach Staley exemplifies authentic leadership and advocacy. But her advocacy isn’t just about sports. It’s about standing up against discrimination and promoting equality. When she speaks out for trans athletes, she’s not just talking hoops — she’s talking about creating a better, more inclusive world for all of us. 

“Her approach to coaching led her team to an undefeated season and a national championship, and her approach to advocacy is the MVP for us all.” 

GLSEN Executive Director, Melanie Willingham-Jaggers

“GLSEN congratulates Coach Dawn Staley and the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team for their well-deserved NCAA championship victory. 

“During this time of celebration, it’s crucial to address the troubling decision made today by The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to ban transgender women from competing next school year. Now more than ever, we must amplify our efforts as a collective to ensure the inclusion of all women in women’s sports. 

“Coach Staley’s support for transgender athletes is a source of hope. Her coaching serves as a powerful example of true leadership, consistently showing up for her team and all athletes. In moments like this, it’s courageous leaders like Coach Staley who inspire us to uphold what’s just and advocate for true inclusion and equity on and off the court.”

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon

“NCLR congratulates Coach Staley and the University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team for a perfect season and, along with the rest of the NCAA teams, wowing us in the most-watched college tournament in its history.

Coach Staley’s leadership on and off the court was on full display when she firmly and matter-of-factly told us that everyone should have the opportunity to play.  Coach Staley chose to answer this question with the grace and dignity she exhibits every day while supporting her team and guiding her young players into adulthood and, this year, to a national championship.

Leadership often looks simple but in fact only comes with tenacity, faith, and the belief in each of us to bring our best.  In her statement supporting transgender athletes, Coach Staley affirmed her gift of leadership and the power of the kind of teamwork that her players showed on the court – we are all better if we can all thrive.  Congratulations to the Gamecocks for an exceptional year – and to Coach Staley for showing by example, what it means to lead with courage and a commitment to access and equity.”

National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson:

“As we’ve heard throughout the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament from Coach Staley, her approach to coaching this undefeated national championship team has been about letting them be who they are, meeting the moment through hard work and teamwork. Her support for transgender women in sports is no different. Coach Staley showed courage and vulnerability, in choosing to answer the question and make a powerful statement of support for trans people on one of the biggest days and biggest stages in sports history. Not only does that make her a leader we can all aspire to be like, it makes her a class act. She has etched her legacy in the history books with her play, her coaching, her heart and her smarts.”

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