The conflict between Missouri and South Carolina is heating up. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley has filed a $75,000 defamation lawsuit, the maximum that can be filed for a civil suit in South Carolina, against Missouri Athletic Director Jim Sterk today, February 22. Her action was sparked by Sterk’s comments during a radio interview that followed Missouri’s loss at South Carolina on January 28, 2018.
Sterk went after Staley saying “We had players spit on and called the ‘N’ word and things like that,” he stated. “I mean it was not a good environment and unfortunately and I think Coach (Dawn) Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere. And it’s unfortunate that she felt she had to do that,” he concluded in the January 30 interview with Columbia’s KTGR 1580 AM station.
South Carolina’s athletic director Ray Tanner quickly addressed the comments the following day on 107.5 The Game, saying the allegations were “beyond my understanding.” He also addressed the potential disciplinary action of the allegations of fan misconduct.
According to a St. Louis Post Dispatch report, Staley’s civil slander suit against Sterk was filed on Thursday in South Carolina’s Richland County’s court of common pleas Fifth Judicial Circuit, then mailed to Mizzou’s general counsel Paul Maguffee on the same day.
Staley was pushed to file the lawsuit after Sterk refused to publicly retract his claims against the coach and South Carolina women’s basketball program. The lawsuit states that Sterk’s allegations “injure her reputation and was made with actual malice and with the knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard for the truth.”
The lawsuit also claims that Sterk defamed Staley by “orally publishing to third parties that Coach Staley willfully and intentionally created an atmosphere at a college basketball game designed to incite riotous conduct and behavior by players and fans alike, which is false.”
Additionally, the lawsuit states that coach Staley is “entitled to actual, compensatory and punitive damages against (Sterk) not to exceed the sum or value of seventy-five thousand dollars, exclusive of interests and costs.”
Staley defended Gamecock fans during a January 31st press conference, calling them “loyal” and “passionate.” She also stated that she stands by what they represent and what they cheer.
The report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch disclosed Sterk is already paying a fine of $25,000 as he violated the SEC’s code of ethics, more specifically Bylaw 10.5.1 which states “Coaches and administrators shall refrain from public criticism of other member institutions, their staff or players.”