Gamecock women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley was one of the many athletes and coaches who spoke out about racial injustice following the shooting of Jacob Blake, tweeting that she is “all for canceling all things sports to focus on this matter.” She held a teleconference Friday afternoon to share her thoughts on the sports world’s responsibility to participate in important cultural conversations.
“When I tweet something, it’s truly coming from my heart,” Staley said regarding using her voice online. “No one’s gonna stop me from saying that, saying what I need to say.”
In the wake of Blake's shooting, many athletes are using their platform to make a statement on social justice issues such as police brutality and racial discrimination. The Milwaukee Bucks opted not to participate in their first-round playoff game on Wednesday, stating that their focus “cannot be on basketball.” Other NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS teams followed suit, prompting several game cancellations.
As one of few Black people in South Carolina’s athletics department, Staley said she feels that she has a responsibility to speak out about social justice because of her proximity to the situation.
“I’ve always been comfortable speaking my mind, it’s just, I didn’t do it very often because my heart didn’t tell me to do it,” Staley said. “But now my heart is speaking to me a lot more these days because, you know, things that are happening, and I’m a coach of 11 young ladies. Nine of them are Black, two of them are white. We have to coexist.”
As a member of the SEC’s new Council on Racial Equity and Social Justice, Staley said she is looking forward to being able to make change and hopes that social justice will be one of the many things the conference will “[pride] itself on being the leader in.” She also expressed support for renaming any building on campus that “represents racial divide,” such as the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center.
As for the professional sports stoppage, Staley said she thought it was a “great” way to force people to pay attention and will support her players if they choose not to play should a similar incident occur during the season.
“Young people are going to have to speak out. They’re going to have to put their feelings out there. They’re going to have to use their voices in order for change to happen,” Staley said. “I hope, in my lifetime, that we’ll see it, and I don’t want to put a damper on it, but it doesn’t really seem to be getting better.”
One way Staley has encouraged her players to use their voice is by making sure they are all registered to vote. She said she expects the entire team to be registered in time for the election and that she plans to have the athletes spend Election Day helping people, such as the elderly, get out to vote.
“We work through things. I think that’s the most beautiful thing about being a part of a team,” Staley said. “I think probably that’s what’s wrong with the world, you know? No one’s part of a team.”