By Rickey Hampton, Editor and Founder of TheAfricanAmericanAthlete.com
I have heard it all, now.
A white person has accused a black person in South Carolina of inciting a group to use racial slurs.
That’s precisely what Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said the other day about Dawn Staley, the coach of the defending NCAA champion South Carolina women’s basketball team, following an intense game between the SEC rivals at South Carolina’s Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina won the game between the two nationally ranked teams 64-54. It seems the crowd of 13,400 at SC’s Colonial Life Arena were at best loud and raucous. At worst they were belligerent and racist.
“It wasn’t a great atmosphere,” Sterk said in an interview with a Columbia, Mo., radio station. “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.”
That is a powerful accusation. However, Sterk offered no evidence of how Staley’s actions prompted the crowd to spit on Missouri players and call them niggers. For her part, Staley said it never happened.
“The accusations are serious and false, and they will be handled in the manner reflective of those facts,” Staley told reporters. “Our fans are great. They’re loyal. They’re passionate. They understand basketball. They understand how to act in the stands. If I could uproot them and put them in every women’s basketball arena, every coach that represents that particular fan base would be tremendously proud of what they bring to the table.
“I stand by our fans. I stand by what they represent. I stand by how they cheer. I stand by every single thing that they bring to the building because it’s appropriate and well within game rules.”
Now, I wasn’t at the game, to know what exactly happened.
However, I don’t need to be there to know something doesn’t sound right about Sterk’s claim against Staley. Now, could someone in the crowd of 13,400 yell nigger, and spit on players?
After all, we are talking about South Carolina, a state where white policeman, Michael Slager, can shoot and kill an unarmed black man, Walter Scott. It’s a state where Dylann Roof, can walk in a historic black church and slaughter nine people. It’s a place where the current president, who is a racist, captured 55 percent of the vote in the 2016 presidential election. So, yes, I believe that in a crowd of 13,400 people in South Carolina that there are people capable of conveying racial slurs and hate. Not only that, according to a study by the Anti-Defamation League, racist messages on college campuses are on the rise since the election of the current president, who is racist.
But what I simply refuse to believe is that Dawn Staley was the catalyst of any such attacks. And she says they never happened.
It makes absolutely no sense. Why would Staley, a black woman, with several black players on her team, encourage such language. or behavior?
Sterk needs to give an explanation of how he thinks Staley was behind what he perceived to be the rowdy crowd. Sterk simply can’t make such an inflammatory, accusatory statement like that, and not back it up with facts.
I mean, what did Staley do? Did she call a time out, ignore her players and go to the fans and say “Hey, let’s get the nigger cheer going! And don’t forget to spit on the Missouri players.”
Staley has worked her whole life building her career as first, an outstanding player, and then a coach and a leader of young people on and off the floor. There is nothing in her character to suggest such actions.
Jim Sterk needs to step up and tell us why he believes Dawn Staley is at fault. If not, he needs to offer Staley an apology.Unfortunately, it is highly likely that Sterk will do either.