Transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in women’s sports, South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley said ahead of her team’s NCAA Tournament championship game.

Staley made the comments during a news conference Saturday when asked by OutKick reporter Dan Zaksheske whether she believes “biological males” should be “included” in women’s sports.

“I’m on the opinion of if you’re a woman you should play,” Staley said. “If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports, or vice versa, you should be able to play. That’s my opinion.”

Staley was speaking to reporters ahead of South Carolina’s championship matchup against Iowa on Sunday.

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder declined to answer the same question later on.

“I understand it’s a topic that people are interested in, but today my focus is on the game tomorrow, my players,” Bluder said. “It’s an important game we have tomorrow and that’s what I want to be here to talk about, but I know it’s an important issue for another time.”

The topic of transgender athletes in sports has become a hot-button wedge issue in recent years, despite the fact that as of 2023, only 34 trans athletes had openly competed in college sports, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. The comprises in infinitesimal amount of the more than 500,000 participants in NCAA athletics.

Opponents argue that transgender athletes who were assigned male at birth hold an advantage over cisgender women. Last month, college swimmers and volleyball players sued the NCAA, accusing it of violating their Title IX rights by allowing transgender woman Lia Thomas to compete in the 2022 national swimming championships. Thomas was the first openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA swimming championship.  

At least 20 states have approved a version of a blanket ban on trans athletes playing on K-12 and collegiate sports teams. A Biden administration proposal would forbid such outright bans.

South Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly last year approved laws barring instruction about gender identity and sexuality in kindergarten through fourth grade, as well as banning transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams from middle and high school through college. In 2022, Iowa approved its own similar law.

Staley signaled that she was ready for any potential blowback caused by her comments.


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