Staley settles lawsuit against Missouri athletic director

U.S. coach Dawn Staley, right, greets players after the team defeated China 83-46 in an exhibition basketball game Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has reached a $50,000 settlement in her lawsuit against Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk.

Missouri is paying the $50,000. One half of the settlement will go to INNERSOLE, a nonprofit foundation co-founded by Staley. The other half will go to Staley’s attorneys.

Staley sued Sterk in February and said he slandered her when he suggested she created an atmosphere encouraging fans to spit on Missouri’s players and use racial slurs. Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey fined Sterk $25,000 and reprimanded him.

As part of the settlement, Sterk released a statement apologizing for his comments.

”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. ”I do not believe Coach Staley would promote such conduct, and I sincerely apologize for those comments.”

Staley said in a statement she accepts his apology and appreciates the donation to INNERSOLE, which assists children in need. Staley added that ”I look forward to moving past this with a continued spirited but positive competition amongst our programs.”

Missouri official say the school is paying the $50,000 because Sterk ”made his comments in good faith while performing his duties as a University employee.”

Staley’s lawsuit had asked for no more than $75,000 in damages.

Sterk made his comments the day after South Carolina’s 64-54 home victory over Missouri on Jan. 28. Sterk said in a radio interview that Missouri’s players were spat upon and ”called the N-word and things like that.” Sterk told KTGR Radio at the time that ”it was not a good environment and unfortunately, I think coach Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere.”

South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said at the time he interviewed security personnel and others at the arena and found no evidence of fans spitting or making racial slurs.

Missouri and South Carolina have developed a heated rivalry.

The Jan. 28 game included an on-court tussle and the ejection of two Missouri players. Staley was ejected from an 83-74 loss at Missouri on Jan. 7.