Dawn Staley wants Black players to have equitable NIL opportunities

(Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Dawn Staley has firsthand experience with how the NCAA’s newfound name, image and likeness rights are reshaping college sports, and especially recruiting.

The South Carolina women’s basketball head coach says her recruiting strategy centers on getting to know the prospect as a person, including those closest to them.

“All the significant people of the prospects we recruit, because we just don’t recruit the prospect. They have a number of people that they surround themselves with just to create just some layers to them, and we forge relationships with all of them,” Staley says on the latest episode of NETLIFE.

From there, Staley says her coaching staff inquires about the athlete’s future goals, no matter how attainable or unattainable they might be.

“What we do mainly is we find out what our prospects want, where they see themselves two years from us being in their living rooms, to five years, to ten years, and we write down every single thing that they tell us,” she says.

Staley says it’s crucial to hold athletes to their word to instill accountability, especially in the NIL era.

“My message to them is bet on yourself. My message to them is don’t by any means disrespect your family’s name, the South Carolina women’s basketball brand and — now that players are brands themselves — your brand,” she says.

“I do think the NIL situation does help us coach a little bit better because it’s not just performance. It is protecting your brand, and that’s the message that will change a little bit as the NIL movement moves forward.”

As companies invest more in NIL deals, Staley would like to see them extend high-profile opportunities to athletes of different races and ethnicities.

“Race has to come into this because we are seeing other players from different ethnicities benefit … obviously they’re good players, they’re high-profile players, but we got the highest-profile team as far as what we are able to do this year,” Staley says of her No. 1-ranked South Carolina squad.

“I mean, I don’t see an Aliyah Boston with sponsorships that are six figures. Now, we don’t talk about those things, but I am sure if there is a six-figure brand that she is sponsoring, we would see it, we would hear about it somewhere … and I am just not hearing that.”

Staley, who became one of the highest-paid coaches in women’s basketball when she signed a seven-year, $22.4 million contract extension with South Carolina in October, continues to be a vocal advocate for Black women in sports.

“I am into advancing our sport, I am into advancing our sport on all levels, but at the same time, I am also for Black players getting equitable opportunities when it comes to NIL,” she says. “I want women’s sports to not mirror what the rest of the world looks like, because we are different.”

Listen to Staley’s comments in their entirety on the NETLIFE podcast.