College Sports

ESPN analyst says Missouri AD’s accusations against Dawn Staley are ‘slander’

A heated rivalry took a nasty turn into a war of words Tuesday, as Missouri athletics director Jim Sterk accused South Carolina women’s basketball fans of spitting on Mizzou players and using racial slurs during the teams’ game this Sunday at Colonial Life Arena.

Sterk also said USC head coach Dawn Staley was responsible for “promoting” the hostile and “unhealthy” environment in which the alleged misconduct took place.

South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner issued a statement soon after saying the university had investigated the claims and uncovered no confirmed reports of them.

Meanwhile, others in the women’s college basketball world came powerfully to the defense of Staley and fought back against the assertion that she would encourage a violent atmosphere.

Leading the charge, ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson ripped Sterk for his comments, calling them “beyond belief” and “ridiculous.” She also accused Sterk of slandering Staley and predicted that investigations would be launched into his comments, resulting in a public apology “at the very least.”

Robinson has had Staley for her ESPN podcast “Around the Rim” earlier this season.

One of Robinson’s colleagues at ESPN, writer Mechelle Voepel, added that Sterk “just made things much worse” by attacking Staley and compared his actions to pouring gasoline on a fire. She also complimented the more measured response of Mizzou head coach Robin Pingeton.

Longtime women’s basketball writer Mel Greenberg, who founded the Associated Press poll, wrote on Twitter that Sterk should “watch a video of Dawn Staley’s visit with the Gamecocks to Philly last month and the love shown for one of the greatest athletes in the city’s history.”

Greg Hadley: @GregHadley9