South Carolina’s Coach Was Asked About Transgender Women In Sports — And Her Response Went Viral

On Monday, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics announced a policy banning transgender women from college sports.

South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley went viral this weekend for saying unambiguously that transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in women’s sports.

Staley said she supported transgender athletes during a press conference ahead of the Gamecocks’ NCAA Tournament championship game after she was pressed by Dan Zaksheske, a reporter for the conservative sports website OutKick.

Zaksheske asked Staley her opinion on the inclusion of “biological males” in women’s sports.

“If you are a woman you should play,” Staley responded. “If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports or vice versa, you should be able to play.”

Staley appeared to realize the import of her statement, and perhaps the attempt to bait her ― but said she didn’t care. “So now the barnstorm of 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,” she said.

The next day, the Gamecocks went on to win the NCAA women’s basketball championship, defeating Iowa 87-75.

The participation of transgender athletes in sports at all levels ― from elementary school to collegiate athletics ― has been under attack by conservative lawmakers and organizations.

Staley’s comments came only two days before a new blow to transgender inclusion in sports.

On Monday, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which governs around 83,000 student athletes, announced a policy that essentially bans all transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports. It is believed to be the first college sports organization to solidify this policy.

According to the new policy, all NAIA student athletes can participate in male sports. But for women’s sports, the policy says that only student athletes whose “biological sex is female” can participate as long as they have not begun any “masculinizing hormone therapy.”

The policy, which was approved 20-0 by NAIA’s Council of Presidents, will go into effect Aug. 1, 2024.

The NCAA, on the other hand, has allowed transgender athletes to compete if they adhere to the guidelines of the international sports governing bodies but has been generally quiet on pressure to pull events from states that bar trans athletes from competitions.

“College sports are the premier stage for women’s sports in America and the NCAA will continue to promote Title IX, make unprecedented investments in women’s sports and ensure fair competition for all student-athletes in all NCAA championships,” the NCAA said in a statement released hours after the NAIA announcement.

Since 2019, when the Alliance Defending Freedom ― a conservative legal group which has drafted many anti-trans bills ― first sued a Connecticut school for allowing transgender athletes to participate in sports, the existence of transgender athletes has dominated the news cycle.

To date, 24 states have passed legislation barring transgender women and girls from playing in women’s sports, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

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