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Whitlock: Does Dawn Staley realize her South Carolina players face a greater threat in Memphis than at BYU?

Op-ed
Ethan Miller / Staff, Elsa / Staff, Andy Lyons / Staff | Getty Images

I wonder if Dawn Staley, the queen of women’s college basketball, has heard the story of Eliza Fletcher.

Cleotha Abston, a career criminal, allegedly stalked, kidnapped, and murdered the 34-year-old schoolteacher on Friday. Fletcher, a mother and wife, was out on an early-morning jog in her hometown of Memphis, one of the most dangerous cities in America. According to statistics, you have a 1-in-12 chance of being a victim of violent or property crime while living in Memphis.

I wonder if Dawn Staley knows any of this. The South Carolina women’s coach recently canceled the Gamecocks’ home-and-home series against Brigham Young University because a Duke volleyball player, Rachel Richardson, claimed BYU fans taunted her with racial slurs.

“I just wanted to make sure our players didn’t have to endure that,” Staley told reporters this weekend. “Because if something happened of that manner, I don’t have the words to comfort them.”

Hmm. BYU was scheduled to play at South Carolina on Nov. 7. Next year, the Gamecocks were supposed to play at BYU.

There’s been no definitive evidence presented that the BYU crowd taunted Richardson or her teammates. The allegations first surfaced when Richardson’s godmother, Lesa Pamplin, a political candidate in Texas, tweeted that Richardson was racially harassed throughout the entirety of a televised volleyball match. Pamplin has a documented history of making anti-white racial remarks and promoting racial hoaxes.

BYU has a long history of hosting sporting events on its campus. The school’s basketball teams have a long history of employing black players and assistant coaches. BYU is known for its homogeneous white campus. It doesn’t have a reputation for using racial slurs at sporting events.

Today, a group of state politicians in South Carolina – the South Carolina Freedom Caucus – wrote a letter to Staley and athletics director Ray Tanner demanding that the school explain its hasty decision-making.

“Why did the University of South Carolina cancel the series against BYU when no supporting evidence existed to warrant such action? Will the University of South Carolina reschedule with BYU and issue a public apology if the allegations continue to be shown as false? Is it now the policy of the University to forgo, or more concerning, ignore any fact-finding missions into allegations of wrongdoing? Will the University be canceling all sporting events whenever any fan of any university against which the Gamecocks have an upcoming game is accused of acting inappropriately? Is the University of South Carolina now taking responsibility for all of its fans, regardless of any relationship with the University? What is the policy of the University of South Carolina for canceling games in which allegations of wrongdoing by a future opposing school’s fans are made? And finally, will the University of South Carolina decline any games with Duke University given the verifiable racially insensitive tweets by a member of Duke’s fan base, Mrs. Pamplin?”

The Freedom Caucus then made a series of freedom of information requests, seeking a paper trail to back up the decision to cancel the games.

South Carolina is the first school to cancel a home game out of fear that the visiting team’s fans would racially taunt their opponent. I guess Staley canceled the series out of fear of what might happen next year. Her players could be taunted.

The truth is Staley canceled South Carolina’s series with BYU to embarrass the Mormon institution and elevate her own profile. It was not a well-thought-out decision. It was emotional and manipulative.

Staley should do the same to Memphis. There’s actual proof that the city of Memphis is unsafe for young black people and people in general. The city’s murder rate rivals Chicago’s and St. Louis’. Last year, the mid-sized city recorded 346 murders.

For the first time in three decades, on Dec. 3, South Carolina will play Memphis. It’s a home-and-home series. Next year, the Gamecocks will travel to Memphis.

Where will Staley’s Gamecocks face more danger: Provo, Utah, or Memphis, Tennessee?

Based on the stats and reputation, Staley and the Gamecocks should bring extra security to Memphis. There’s plenty of evidence that Memphis is quite dangerous.

The tragedy that befell Eliza Fletcher is just the latest example. A year ago, the rap world and corporate media celebrated the murder of Young Dolph, the Nipsey Hussle of the South. The rappers say M.E.M.P.H.I.S. stands for making easy money pimping hoes in style.

That’s Memphis’ reputation.

Dawn Staley is comfortable taking a group of young women to Memphis, but not Provo. Staley is a hypocrite. Her hypocrisy is supported by corporate media.

In 2018, the Missouri Tigers played at South Carolina. There was an on-court fight that appeared to be instigated by Staley’s players. Sierra Michaelis, a former Mizzou basketball player, attended the game. She tweeted that South Carolina fans spit on Missouri players after the game. Here’s a link to the story.

Missouri’s athletics director, Jim Sterk, complained that Tigers players were called the N-word and spit on. He blamed Dawn Staley.

“We had players spit on and called the N-word and things like that,” Sterk said in 2018. “I mean it was not a good environment, and unfortunately and I think Coach Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere. And it’s unfortunate that she felt she had to do that.”

Staley dismissed the allegations as “serious and false.”

No one refused to play South Carolina. Stephen A. Smith never discussed the alleged racism bubbling within Staley’s program and fan base.

No one that I’m aware of has called out Staley for this blatant hypocrisy. When her fan base was accused of being out of control, she claimed her fans are the greatest in the world.

“Our fans are great. They’re loyal, they’re passionate, they understand basketball, they understand how to act in the stands,” she said.

“I stand by our fans. I stand by what they represent, I stand by how they cheer, I stand by every single thing they bring to the building, because it’s appropriate and well within the rules of the game.”

That’s black, elite privilege. Staley gets to defend her fan base. The BYU athletics director, Tom Holmoe, apologized before anyone even had a chance to investigate the legitimacy of Rachel Richardson’s claims.

This is idolatry. Based on skin color, Staley and her fans are above sin and BYU is covered in sin. Provo, Utah, is a place too dangerous for black women basketball players. Meanwhile, Memphis is heaven on earth.

Dawn Staley is committed to cleaning up Utah and ignoring Memphis. One percent of Utah is black. Sixty-four percent of Memphis is black.

Dawn Staley cares about Dawn Staley. She uses race to benefit her bank account.

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