Dawn Staley Blasts “Bar Fighters” Narrative Applied To Her South Carolina Gamecocks Players

Basketball Hall of Famer Dawn Staley may not have won a championship in the WNBA, but she knows how to get championships as an NCAA coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. Although her team is the reigning 2022 NCAA Division I Tournament Champions, they were surprisingly defeated by the Iowa Hawkeyes, who are now headed to the championship game.

Still, she wanted the world to know that she’s heard the narratives surrounding her team, which are anything but complimentary of the talent that gave them an undefeated regular season en route to their deep tourney run. A dominant team of primarily Black women who play aggressively was labeled with terminology as bold as their playing style.

Correcting The Narrative

“We’re not bar fighters. We’re not thugs. We’re not monkeys. We’re not street fighters,” Staley said at the postgame press conference. “This team exemplifies how you need to approach basketball on the court and off the court. And I do think that that’s sometimes brought into the game, and it hurts.”

Staley directed her comments towards the media, who she felt said the things they were thinking about her team’s defense-heavy style of play out loud, and it has been getting back to her. She noted that some people she heard saying this wrote for national media. Staley said she intended to address whether they won or lost Friday.

“Some of the people in the media, when you’re gathering in public, you’re saying things about our team, and you’re being heard, and it’s being brought back to me,” Staley continued. “And these are the people that write nationally for our sport. So you can not like our team, and you can not like me.

“But when you say things that you probably should be saying in your home on the phone or texting out in public and you’re being heard, and you are a national writer for our sport – it just confirms what we already know. So watch what you say when you’re in public, and you’re talking about my team in particular.”

The Coach Perspective

On Tuesday, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder described rebounding against the Gamecocks as “going to a bar fight.” By Saturday, Bluder brushed off Staley’s comments about her description of her team’s physicality.

“If you know me, I speak tongue in cheek a lot, and I was saying an analogy of you’ve got to rebound like you’re in a bar fight,” Bluder said. “That’s all. It doesn’t say who’s fighting, right? But that’s fine. I’ve never been in a bar fight, by the way.”

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Bluder was one of many coaches to refer to the Gamecocks’ style of play in a less-than-flattering way. After South Carolina’s 81-77 win at UConn on Feb. 5, Huskies coach Geno Auriemma described the defense on UConn guard / forward Lou Lopez Senechal as “not basketball.” She added that Senechal had “bruises on her body.”

Staley’s pushback against the narrative is to deflect future negative implications for her players who might meet these teams again down the line or have professional athletic careers in their futures. Two championships in six seasons and an undefeated 2022-2023 season later, and you can’t label them losers even amid the Final Four tournament elimination.


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