Legendary basketball coach says she supports trans athletes: ‘if you’re a woman, you should play’

South Carolina’s renowned women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley has clearly stated her belief that transgender athletes should be permitted to compete in women’s sports.

Speaking candidly during a press briefing following her No. 1 Gamecocks’ triumph over NC State in the Final Four, Staley plainly confirmed her support for trans women and their right to play in women’s teams.

“I’m of the opinion that if you’re a woman, you should play,” Staley said, in response from a reporter’s question. “If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports, or vice versa, you should be able to play.”

Staley is an influential figure in the sports world: she is a former NCAA and WNBA player as well as an Olympian: she won three Olympic gold medals with Team USA as a player. She has won the Naismith National Coach of the Year award three times consecutively: a total of four times in the past five years.

She was asked the question about trans athletes by right-wing commentator and OutKick reporter Dan Zaksheske, whose X bio reads: “My loyalties lie with logic and reason… not ideology.”

OutKick is associated with anti-trans campaigner Riley Gaines, who is among 16 sportswomen suing athletics regulator the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) over its inclusion of transgender people.

Zaksheske referred to trans women as “biological males” in his question to Staley, saying: “Coach, you just talked about what a massive weekend this is obviously for women’s basketball, women’s sports in general.

“One of the major issues facing women’s sports right now is the debate discussion topic about the inclusion of transgender athletes, biological males in women’s sports. I was wondering if you would tell me your position on that issue.”

After twice confirming that she believed trans athletes belong in women’s sports in response to Zahsheske, Staley predicted she’d be the focus on an online “pile-on”, and seemed to accept that, saying: “Now the barnstormer people are going to flood my timeline and be a distraction to me… I’m okay with that. I really am.”

The CEO of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, praised Staley and highlighted her as a beacon of leadership in a statement to The Advocate.

“Coach Dawn Staley is the best in the business—she is a visionary who knows women’s collegiate basketball better than anyone and has elevated the level of play,” Ellis told The Advocate. “Staley using her platform on the biggest weekend of the season to unequivocally support trans women athletes is a beacon of light and true leadership.”

Staley’s support comes at a time when transgender athletes are navigating an increasingly challenging backlash. In the UK alone in recent months, a number of major sporting federations, including Badminton EnglandBritish Rowing and Swim England, have barred transgender women from competing.

Also, just last year, World Athletics announced tougher restrictions on elite-level trans athletes.