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NCAA Basketball Coach Defends Remarks About Faith Amid Complaint From Freedom From Religion Foundation

Dawn Staley
Screengrab via YouTube / @FOX Carolina News

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an organization that exists “to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church,” has taken aim at University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley for referencing her faith in a postgame interview. 

Staley’s comments came after University of South Carolina’s victory over Oregon State University on Sunday (March 31). South Carolina will advance to the Final Four for this year’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, which begins on Friday evening. 

While speaking to reporters on the court, Staley referenced the “devastating loss” the team experienced last year and marveled at South Carolina’s success this year. 

“If you don’t believe in God, there’s something wrong with you, seriously,” Staley said. “I’m a believer. I’m a believer, because he makes things, he makes things come true. When you’re at your worst, he’s at his best.”

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Turning and gesturing toward the celebration taking place in the arena, Staley added, “Look at him. Look at him.” 

On Monday, lawyers for FFRF sent a letter to University of South Carolina President Michael Amiridis, urging the university “to take action to protect its student athletes and to ensure that Staley understands that she has been hired as a basketball coach and not a pastor.”

The letter alleged that Staley’s remarks raised “serious constitutional concerns with Dawn Staley’s ongoing promotion of her personal religious beliefs and her denigration of non-Christians through the women’s basketball program.”

“Coach Staley continues to violate the Constitution and the rights of players by promoting her personal religious beliefs through the women’s basketball program,” the letter went on to say, referencing previous letters it issued to University of South Carolina in 2021 and 2022.

“Since we first brought this issue to the University’s attention, Coach Staley has only ramped up her use of religious rhetoric in official communications through her role as a university employee, including insulting those who don’t believe in the Christian god,” FFRF lawyers said. “She has also continued her practice of preparing ‘gameday devotional’ for players and sharing these chosen bible verses on her social media pages as ‘Head Coach of South Carolina Women’s Basketball.’” 

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The letter characterized Staley’s actions as “inappropriate and unconstitutional” and said that they are common throughout college sports.