South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley has reached a $50,000 settlement with Missouri Athletics Director Jim Sterk and gotten an apology from him over comments he made about her earlier this year.
Terms of the settlement were announced Thursday by the University of Missouri. One half of the money will be paid to Staley’s non-profit foundation, INNERSOLE, and the other half will go to her attorneys.
The school itself will pay out the money, since the comments were made while Sterk was performing his duties as a university employee.
“Following a very spirited and intense game I attended in late January between the nationally ranked Missouri and South Carolina women’s basketball teams, I made comments in a local radio interview that were construed to suggest that Coach Staley promoted the negative experiences of racial epithets and spitting,” Sterk said in a statement. “I do not believe Coach Staley would promote such conduct, and I sincerely apologize to her for those comments."
In the same statement, Staley said the following:
“I accept his apology and I appreciate the contribution of $25,000 to INNERSOLE, a not for profit organization I co-founded that provides new sneakers to children who are homeless or in need,” Staley said. “I’m glad we can share in support of this worthy cause and I look forward to moving past this with a continued spirited but positive competition amongst our programs.”
Staley sued Sterk for defamation and libel for remarks he made on a Missouri radio show back in January following a game between the Gamecocks and the Tigers held at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC.
The game had been contentious, and afterward, some Missouri players and coaches suggested they'd been mistreated by Gamecock fans.
In a radio interview with KTGR-FM days later, Sterk said that he believed Staley created an atmosphere that led to his players being verbally assaulted by USC fans after the game. Specifically, Sterk said Gamecock fans spit on his players, and used the n-word at them.
In her suit against him, Staley said the comments were "false, defamatory, reckless, and made with actual malice in that [Sterk] knew that his statement was false and still made it with a reckless disregard for the truth."
She said the comments damaged her reputation, and had asked for $75,000.
The Southeastern Conference fined Sterk $25,000 for those remarks. They also announced a reprimand of him, and asked for a review of game management and visiting team security at USC.
The SEC determined Sterk’s public comments on the show violated SEC Bylaws which state “Coaches and administrators shall refrain from public criticism of other member institutions, their staff or players.”