University of South Carolina’s star women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley lent her support to trans women in sports on Saturday, giving a direct answer at a press conference that left no uncertainty to her position.

When asked by reporters what she thought of trans women being included in women’s sports, Staley said, “If you’re a woman, you should play. 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.”

A reporter then asked Staley specifically if she felt that “transgender women should be able to participate,” to which she immediately responded: “Yes. Yes.”

Attempts to ban transgender girls and women from participating in women’s sports have been a favorite piece of anti-LGBT+ legislation in GOP-led states, including South Carolina, where Gov. Henry McMaster passed a transgender sports ban in 2022.

Staley, who is arguably the most talented coach in women’s collegiate basketball, said she knew she’d face substantial backlash for her opinion. But that didn’t faze her.

“Now the barnstormer people are going to flood my timeline and be a distraction to me on one of the biggest days of our game, and I’m OK with that. I really am,” she said.

Right on cue, conservative South Carolinians attacked Staley for speaking out.

“Once again, Dawn Staley uses her tax-payer funded platform to push left wing policies,” the South Carolina Freedom Caucus wrote on X. Its chairman, state representative Adam Morgan, accused her of pushing “embarrassing ideologies” that contradicted South Carolina’s values.

But other leaders in women’s sports applauded Staley for using her voice.

“I’ve had the great fortune of being in @dawnstaley orbit since 2001. I have been amazed and proud of her not only for what she’s accomplished on the court, but off. This is up there as one of the most proud times ever,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve wrote on X, replying to Staley’s comments. “Way to go Dawn!”

Staley will lead the Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday in the NCAA final against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

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