Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
The Art of Responding to Ghost Chasers

The Art of Responding to Ghost Chasers

From a woman who has no time for ghost stories.
(Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks looks on during an open practice session ahead of the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Final Four National Championship at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on April 06, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

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South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley has no time for chasing ghosts, let alone nonsense of any variety.

In a few hours, her team, undefeated this season, will face off against Iowa in the national championship, the final game in a tournament that has positioned women’s college basketball as the biggest story in American sports.

For folks who aren’t into sportsball, lemme offer some quick context:

South Carolina has lost a total of four games over the past three seasons. Their regular season record over that time is 107-3. They are undeniably a juggernaut, a dynasty-in-waiting. This is the fourth consecutive year they’ve made the Final Four.

The last time they lost was in last year’s Final Four… to Iowa.

Iowa has never won a national title. This is only the second time they’ve made it to the championship game. Last year, they lost the final to LSU and star Angel Reese.

But they boast Caitlin Clark, whose thrilling play on the court has shattered records for TV ratings, ticket prices, and, of course, NCAA stats. This regular season—her final season—Clark became the all-time leading scorer in the history of college basketball, for both women and men.

So, one of the greatest college basketball players of all-time is leading a team that’s considered the underdog against an undefeated team that has stomped through opponents over the past several years. Except for last year’s loss against Iowa, of course.

All of this amounts to a national championship game (today at 3pm ET on ABC/ESPN/ESPN+) that could be the biggest college basketball game in history, regardless of gender.

The quarterfinal game between LSU and Iowa, this past Monday, attracted more than 12.3 million viewers, more than last year’s World Series, more than last year’s NBA Finals, more than almost every regular season college football game in 2023.

Simply put: women’s college basketball is currently not only the talk of the sports world but central to the national conversation.

Today is a crowning achievement for women’s sports. It is now widely considered illogical to claim women’s sports aren’t exciting. Tens of millions of people who weren’t watching before this are certainly watching now. And debating the game. And appreciating the game. And openly being fans of the game.

But yesterday, when Dawn Staley should have been asked about what this all means for the progress of women’s sports as an essential component of American life, a reporter from an anti-LGBTQ outlet asked her how she feels about trans women in sports.

It was a trolling question. It was a derailing question. It was intentionally a distracting question that took attention off the historic nature of this moment for women’s sports.

It was also a question about ghosts for people who are really into chasing ghosts.

There are no trans women playing NCAA Division I college basketball. There are no trans women coaching NCAA Division I college basketball. There are no trans women being recruited to any NCAA Division I college basketball programs.

The question was asked on a premise that is not only entirely hypothetical but also has no basis in reality for the foreseeable future.

Coach Staley could have pointed this out. She could have said: “Why would I worry about a problem that doesn’t exist?”

No one would have thought lesser of her for that answer. We would have all been annoyed she was asked that question in the first place and probably praised her response.

But Coach Staley didn’t say that. She answered directly and made it abundantly clear where she stands on this issue.

"Damn, you got deep on me, didn't you? I'm on the opinion of, if you're a woman, you should play. If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports or vice versa, you should be able to play. That's my opinion. You want me to go deeper?”

When pressed, she followed up with:

"Yes, yes. So now the barnstormer people are going to flood my timeline and be a distraction to me on one of the biggest days of our game, and I'm OK with that. I really am."

And the haters did flood social media. For the past day, rightwing trolls and pundits have been apoplectic that a coach of Dawn Staley’s stature is unapologetically in support of trans women athletes.

You see, the ghost chasers were hoping Coach Staley, given that she’s leading a program in socially conservative South Carolina, would offer a juicy soundbite, her resume doing most of the work to diminish trans girls and women.

The ghost chasers aren’t wrong about that resume.

Dawn Staley is the only person to win both Naismith College Player of the Year and Naismith Coach of the Year.

She's the only person to have won an Olympic gold medal as both a player and a head coach.

As a player, she was a 6x All-Star, 3x Olympic Gold Medalist, and selected for both the 10th and 15th WNBA Anniversary Teams.

As a coach, she has two national titles, six Final Fours, eight SEC championships, and four of those aforementioned Naismith trophies. And that Olympic Gold.

Dawn Staley is women's basketball. She is synonymous with the sport and widely beloved by those within it.

The resume that the ghost chasers were counting on to bolster their anti-trans views came crashing down on them with Coach Staley’s thoughtful response.

And of course, their original plan backfiring spectacularly, many anti-trans extremists are now claiming Coach Dawn Staley is being pressured to say something politically correct.

Imagine thinking so very little of Dawn Staley that you seriously believe she would tolerate being forced to say something antithetical to her beliefs.

Anyway, I hate talking about all this. It’s profoundly grating. We should be celebrating this extraordinary moment for women’s sports and taking the time to imagine an extraordinary future with more moments like this one.

The ghost chasers will be there tomorrow, still waving their arms around and telling ghost stories to anyone who will listen, hyping up apparitions that are nowhere closer to reality than in their own minds.

I’m following Coach Staley’s lead. I have no time for ghost stories. There’s a big game to watch and a title to be won and glory to be had.

There’s history to be witnessed. Enjoy the game, y’all.

yes, please buy me coffee

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Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte Clymer is a writer and LGBTQ advocate. You've probably seen her on Twitter (@cmclymer). This is the podcast version of her blog "Charlotte's Web Thoughts", which you can subscribe to here: