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Earlier this month, the city of Columbia, South Carolina announced South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley will be honored with her own bronze statue outside the State House. 

During an interview on ESPN, Staley reflected on what the honor means to her and for Black women. "Not very many women -- let alone Black women -- get bestowed this honor, and now we have two," the Philadelphia native said on College GameDay, referring to the statue of Columbia native A'ja Wilson on the University of South Carolina campus. 

"All through playing basketball, all through the round ball of playing basketball," Staley said. 

Staley has accomplished amazing things on the basketball court that alone are worthy of a statue in her honor. However, Staley's legacy transcends the game. The three-time Olympic gold medalist has dedicated her legacy to expanding opportunities for Black women in basketball. 

CBS Sports spoke to Staley about the Dawn Staley Excellence in Broadcasting award, and her mission to elevate women through, as she says, "the round ball." 

The harsh reality

One is hard pressed to find any award that is universally agreed upon, and women's basketball is no different. However, there are often -- whether intentional or not -- social and societal biases that negatively impact whom is celebrated. In women's basketball, Black women have been historically overlooked despite representing a large percentage of the athletes in the sport. 

In 2021, Risa Isard and Nicole Melton reported their research findings after reviewing over 500 articles mentioning the WNBA during the 2020 season. 

"Despite the accolades and the fact that 80% of the players are Black, the three names most mentioned by the media? White players," Isard and Melton wrote. The findings we even more drastic among masculine-presenting players. 

"Black WNBA players who present as more masculine received an average of just 44 media mentions. Meanwhile, white athletes who present more masculine received more than five times that amount (an average of 212)," the study showed. 

Staley is no stranger to these realities. 

"Media is such a subjective area, profession," Staley told CBS Sports last month. "Some people see it as the enemy, some people see it as friendly -- it's just a vast spectrum of what people perceive the media to be." 

Passing the net

Because of the subjective nature of the industry and its relation to storytelling of women's sports and Black women in women's sports, Staley wanted to find ways to uplift media by taking a unique approach to storytelling in women's basketball. That is why Staley partnered with the The Phoenix Club of Philadelphia to present the Dawn Staley Excellence in Broadcasting Award in 2016. 

"I just like to highlight those who that aren't on the radar," Staley said. "Although we do recognize people on the radar, it doesn't matter the amount of experience that you have. If the committee who selects this person, feels like they're doing a great job ... we want to project who we feel could have a incredible career in journalism." 

Carolyn Peck was the first honoree in 2016. Staley and Peck have a special bond as the first two Black women to win an NCAA women's basketball championship while serving as head coach of Purdue University and the University of South Carolina, respectively. 

In fact, Peck gifted a piece of her 1999 championship net to Staley ahead of the 2016-17 season. By the spring, Staley led South Carolina to its first NCAA title in program history. Peck did for Staley what her former player Passion Thompson did for her after the Tennessee Lady Vols won the 1996 NCAA title. Peck was an assistant for legendary Vols coach Pat Summitt before leaving to take another role. Tennessee lost the national championship game in 1995, but returned to the title game the next season. Peck was in the stands for the game, and Thompson called her down to the court. 

The Net: Carolyn Peck & Dawn Staley

The Net. The story of Carolyn Peck & Dawn Staley, the only two African-American women to coach a women's hoops team to a national title.

Posted by South Carolina Gamecocks on Thursday, February 21, 2019

"I saw Passion cut two pieces of the net, and she came over and she gave me one of 'em, and she said,'Coach Peck, I want you to keep this until you win one of your own,'" Peck reflected during a conversation with Staley in 2019. Peck told Staley she passed along her piece of the net because she saw in Dawn a lot of qualities she saw in Summitt. 

As a point guard, or floor general as she likes to say, Staley has dished out a fair amount of assists throughout her career. That is what Thompson did for Peck and, in turn, what Peck did for Staley. These Black women passed along the ball to a person in position and qualified to make the shot. 

"What Carolyn Peck did is really the epitome of my outlook and how I want our game to grow," Staley said. "It is not a selfish thing -- I do want our team to win every game. Yes, I do. But if we get beat I'm gonna give it up to the people that beat us because we're not an easy win."

The Gamecocks haven't lost a single game this season, but that has not prevented Staley from praising other coaches and players along the journey. In fact, Staley makes a point to use her platform to elevate other women, and especially Black women, in basketball. 

Excellence in Broadcasting 

To date, the Dawn Staley Excellence in Broadcasting Award has honored six media members. Peck, Holly Rowe and 2023 recipient Andraya Carter all work at ESPN and fall into what many would consider a traditional broadcaster role. However, the committee also honored Ari Chambers in 2022. Chambers is the founder of HighlightHER, the women's sports Bleacher Report vertical. Chambers started out as a social media reporter and now hosts events for the WNBA, Team USA, FIBA and other high-profile events in sports. 

For Staley and the awards committee, Chambers represented an under appreciated yet valuable sector of sports media. 

"Ari has impact," Staley said. "She has impact on the [WNBA], she has impact on the on a college level. She has a global impact. And this was probably prior to us naming her. I think her rise is continuing to have a great trajectory." 

In addition to what Chambers has done for the game through her coverage, Staley also noted the Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree shares a passion for helping others thrive. Although Chambers and Peck operate on different mediums, they both have the ability to inspire the next wave of sports media professionals. 

"We're strategic in who we select, and we feel like who we select will -- the people, the masses -- will have an appreciation for it," Staley said.

To date, only women have been recipients of the Dawn Staley Excellence in Broadcasting Award, and Rowe is the only non-Black recipient in six awards cycles. In other words, the Staley award flips Risard and Melton's research on its head. 

"I mean, we're not we're not saying a man can't can't be honored with our award,"Staley told CBS Sports. "We start with people we feel don't get the credit that they deserve in our sport. And it just happens it just so happens to be women. Go figure. I mean it is, and I'm unafraid to say that.

"Will some men get mad, probably. But it is not not shunning. We're not shunning men we're not ... historically speaking -- just me and what I stand for, and who I am and what I'm about -- I think that the honorees are in line with how I tried to project myself in our sport." 

Broader impact

Staley understands her impact, and she and her committee are intentional in the voices they uplift. And yes, their impact is instructed by what Staley and others know from personal experience, and what researches like Risard, Melton and places like the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports quantify. 

Staley understands that societal change requires the collective women's basketball community to operate differently than it has in the past. So, yes: Staley praises her opponents, empowers Black women coaches in the NCAA by passing along pieces of her championship net,  schedules non-conference games against HBCU opponents, and even hosts dinners with her NCAA Tournament opponents. It is why her coaching peers take time out, after a loss in Vanderbilt coach Shea Ralph's case, to praise her. 

"She was representation for me," Ralph said, reflecting on watching Staley compete at the University of Virginia. "Representation matters. She is a representation, as is her team, of what you can accomplish if you work really hard, if you do the right things." 

Staley does all of this and more because her vision for women's basketball expands beyond her personal wins and losses. Further, it is what Staley feels she herself owes to the game. 

"Honestly, I really feel like I'm forever indebted to the game," Staley said. "For what's what it's done for me and my family and the joy. There's so many things that's going on in our world. You know, not just today, just life in general. And this game has allowed me to appreciate the purity of it, to appreciate the growth of it, to be an escape from the world we live in. Not everybody has an escape. My escape hatch happens to be my passion life."

Although Staley is a competitive as they come, she also respects the game. If she has done everything she can to to prepare herself, her staff, and her players for a game and they lose, she will honor and respect that her best wasn't the best on any given day. 

"I don't want to be second. I don't want to lose," Staley said. "So I prep that way. And again, like I said before, if we do lose, if somebody beat us, they came up with a great game plan to beat us." 

Perhaps the overlooked beauty of how Staley sees the game, and life, is that she embraces the losses almost as much as the wins. "It allows me to grow as a coach," she said. "So the next time I'm in that situation, I gotta be better. So I'm growing."

And when a leader on and off the court like Dawn Staley is growing, she makes sure others have access to the scouting report. 

"It can be a model, a model theme throughout women's basketball, if we allow ourselves to want our game to grow from inside out, like inside our hearts out because sometimes in his game when you when we lose, as in South Carolina, I do think the game wins," Staley said, while also noting it's not something that's happening a lot lately. 

Most everyone loves and winner, and that is what has endeared Staley to South Carolina and the greater women's basketball community. Progress, though, is predicated on the ability to bring others along with you, to lift as you climb. In that way, Staley might be the greatest of all time. 

On Sunday, Staley led South Carolina to their 43rd consecutive SEC regular-season win, a conference record. The Gamecocks have four games left before the SEC Conference Tournament begins on March 6. South Carolina went undefeated last season before losing to Iowa in the 2023 Final Four in Dallas, Texas.