Dawn Staley on significance of statue in Columbia where Confederate flag once stood: ‘Bigger than basketball’

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In recognition of her commitment to the South Carolina Gamecocks’ women’s basketball team as well as the community, head coach Dawn Staley is being honored by the city of Columbia with a statue to be erected downtown, where a Confederate flag once stood for decades.

Staley, making an appearance on ESPN’s “College GameDay,” discussed the significance of the honor and noted that the statue of one of her best players, A’ja Wilson, already stands in the city.

“I wanted A’Ja Wilson to be the only USC athlete to be bestowed that honor,” Staley said before her Gamecocks’ contest against Georgia on Sunday. “It’s bigger than basketball, obviously. It’s something that the city of Columbia wanted. It wasn’t anything I politicked for. They wanted to bring it, they wanted to represent.”

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South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley (Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports)

“Our city’s diverse, our state is diverse. It’s awesome because there’s not very many women, let alone Black women, get bestowed … this honor.”

The city worked with Statues for Equality, an organization that aims to increase the number of women receiving honors for their contributions to their communities.

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As someone with parents who were from South Carolina before moving to Philadelphia, Staley said she knows her mother would be “super proud.”

Dawn Staley talks to the media

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said her mother would be “super proud.” (Tim Cowie/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

“I think it’s an incredible that I probably don’t know its significance as we sit here today,” Staley added.

Local businesses helped donate money for the statue, while Statues for Equality covered the remaining 50% that was needed to build it.

The statue, which was approved in February 2023, shows Staley cutting down a basketball net following a championship.

Championships have become synonymous with Staley’s program at USC, which she built from the ground up when she arrived in 2008. The Gamecocks have won two national titles with Staley leading the way (2017, 2022), and she owns a 426-106 career record with the program.

Dawn Staley reacts to a game against East Carolina

The city of Columbia, South Carolina, is honoring Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley with a statue. (Lance King/Getty Images)

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Staley has become a staple in Columbia, whether it’s on the court or in the community. The city is honoring her for it now.

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