South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley speaks to the media on the eve of the NCAA championship game between Iowa and South Carolina at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Saturday, April 6, 2024 in Cleveland. Syndication: The Des Moines Register

As South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley and Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Lisa Bluder prepare for a highly anticipated national championship showdown on Monday, a reporter used their press conferences as an opportunity to get their opinions on transgender women’s inclusion in women’s college basketball.

OutKick reporter Dan Zaksheske first asked Staley during her Saturday presser.

“One of the major issues facing women’s sports right now is the debate, the discussion topic, about the inclusion of transgender athletes, biological males, in women’s sports,” said Zaksheske. “I was wondering if you would tell me your position on that issue.”

Staley took a big swig from her beverage to give herself a moment, given the unexpected nature of the question, before answering.

“Damn, you got deep on me, didn’t you? I’m on the opinion of, if you’re a woman, you should play,” Staley said. “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.”

When Zaksheske followed up and asked broadly if “transgender women should be able to participate in college basketball,” Staley offered up a resounding “Yes.”

“That’s the question you want to ask, I’ll give you that. Yes, yes,” Staley said. “So 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.”

Later, Zaksheske asked Bluder the same question.

“I understand it’s a topic that people are interested in,” Bluder said. “But today my focus is on the game tomorrow, my players. It’s an important game we have tomorrow, and that’s what I want to be here to talk about. But I know it’s an important issue for another time.”

While Zaksheske was praised in conservative circles, where transgender inclusion in women’s sports has become the culture war topic du jour, the incident frustrated some journalists, who felt it was an unnecessary “gotcha” moment that distracted from what has been one of the most talked-about women’s NCAA Tournaments, and seasons, of all time.

“It is insanely hard to get questions in during these huge press conferences, which makes it SO frustrating to see time wasted on outlets that do not cover women’s sports inventing controversy for their own benefit. Hartford Courant reporter Emily Adams posted on X. “Staley handled this perfectly, but she shouldn’t have had to.”

“Person who asked the question scurried away soon as Dawn answered,” USA Today columnist Nancy Armour posted on X. “Confirming he was only there to try and stir up faux outrage.”

While Zaksheske’s intentions with the question may or may not have been altruistic, Staley received much praise for her straightforward message of inclusion.

The debate surrounding transgender athletes, an incredibly small and marginalized group who are facing historic levels of discrimination and anti-transgender legislation across the country, is often based on a series of misunderstandings and myths. While there’s room for a healthy discussion around the topic, most instances to kickstart those discussions come loaded with bad faith and rarely include transgender people.

[Dan Zaksheske]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to