Mizzou AD Jim Sterk apologizes to Dawn Staley, settles defamation suit with South Carolina coach

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley settled a defamation suit against Missouri AD Jim Sterk after he accused her of inciting to fans to spit and use racial slurs. (AP)

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk settled an ongoing dispute with South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley on Thursday with a public apology and $50,000.

The public feud stems from a January 28 game between the two rivals at South Carolina in which Sterk accused Staley of promoting a hostile atmosphere that led to a spitting incident and racial slurs directed at Missouri players.

Per Columbia, Missouri’s KTGR:

“It wasn’t a great atmosphere. It was really kind of unhealthy, if you will. We had players spit on, and called the N-word, and things like that. It was not a good environment and unfortunately, I think coach Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere, and it’s unfortunate that she felt she had to do that.”

Dawn Staley vehemently denied Jim Sterk’s accusations

The next day, Staley called Sterk’s accusations “serious and false” and promised that things were “going to be handled.”

Three weeks later, Staley filed a defamation suit against Sterk seeking $75,000 in damages, claiming Sterk’s comments were “false, defamatory, reckless and made with actual malice in that [Sterk] knew that his statement was false and still made it with a reckless disregard for the truth.”

No video emerged to support Sterk’s claims. While people corroborated the hostile atmosphere, Sterk provided no evidence that Staley did anything to incite the vitriol he described.

SEC fined Sterk for his comments

The SEC responded to Staley’s suit by reprimanding and fining Sterk $25,000.

From SEC commissioner Grag Sankey, at the time.

“Both Missouri and South Carolina have cultivated highly successful women’s basketball programs, which enjoy tremendous fan support and have earned the respect of this office. While we always appreciate a healthy level of competitive intensity on the court, there is no place in this league for discord inside or outside of the arena.” 

Missouri AD Jim Sterk, right, apologized on Thursday for his accusations against Dawn Staley. (AP)

On Thursday, that suit was settled for $50,000. Missouri released a statement from Sterk.

“Following a very spirited and intense game I attended in late January between the nationally ranked Missouri and South Carolina women’s basketball teams, I made comments in a local radio interview that were construed to suggest that Coach Staley promoted the negative experiences of racial epithets and spitting. I do not believe Coach Staley would promote such conduct, and I sincerely apologize to her for those comments.”

Missouri paid for the settlement claiming that Sterk “made his comments in good faith while performing his duties as a University employee.”

Half of the settlement will go to a Staley charity, while the rest will go to her attorneys.

Staley accepts Sterk’s apology, settlement

Staley responded to the settlement and apology.

“I accept his apology and I appreciate the contribution of $25,000 to INNERSOLE, a not for profit organization I co-founded that provides new sneakers to children who are homeless or in need. I’m glad we can share in support of this worthy cause and I look forward to moving past this with a continued spirited but positive competition amongst our programs.”  

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