The University of Missouri has settled a defamation lawsuit brought against the school's athletic director Jim Sterk by South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley.
Angered over false statements Sterk made on a radio talk show, Staley filed a $75,000 lawsuit against Sterk. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Staley was awarded $50,000, half of which would be distributed to a charity and the other half to Staley’s attorneys.
“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,” Sterk said in a statement Mizzou released Thursday. “I do not believe Coach Staley would promote such conduct, and I sincerely apologize to her for those comments."
Mizzou paid for the settlement, noting that he made his comments in good faith while performing his duties as a university employee
Staley accepted Sterk’s 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,” she said. “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."
After telling Columbia radio station KTGR 1580 AM that Staley promoted what he described as an “unhealthy” atmosphere at the game, the Southeastern Conference reprimanded and fined Sterk $25,000 for violating its code of ethics by criticizing another institution.
While the suit has been settled, Sterk said he still has concerns about the events that led to his comments. “Immediately after the game, several of our student-athletes and staff shared with me experiences they encountered before, during and after our game at South Carolina, including incidents of being spit on, a racial epithet, and other derogatory comments,” he said in Thursday's statement. “Those actions have no place at any sporting event, and I’m truly sorry that our student-athletes and staff had to endure that type of treatment.