Dawn Staley, WNBA stars highlight women’s basketball at Warriors panel

Before her top-ranked South Carolina basketball team takes center stage in its Sunday matchup against No. 2 Stanford, head coach Dawn Staley spotlighted some of the biggest issues in women’s sports after Friday’s Golden State Warriors game in San Francisco.

Moderated by Stephen Curryafter the Warriors’ 111-101 win over the Knicks, the panel, produced by the Empowered Campaign, also included South Carolina alum A’ja Wilson and her Las Vegas Aces teammate Chelsea Gray, a Hayward native and the 2022 WNBA Finals MVP.

The panel was presented in front of a group of 40-plus girls high school basketball players from Piedmont, Saint Mary’s Stockton, and Moreau Catholic who also participated in a clinic with Gray and Wilson in Oakland earlier in the day.

Among many topics centered around women’s athletics, the panel reflected on how Title IX has impacted them during its 50th anniversary year.

“As a coach, you see a little more of what goes on,” Staley said. “The disparities, we saw in our NCAA Tournament in 2021, the men had incredible weight rooms and we had two dumbbells and a yoga mat. You don’t know what you don’t know until you’ve actually seen and experienced it.”

Staley, who was wearing a “Free BG” hat as Brittney Griner remains wrongfully detained in Russia for more than 275 days, has long been vocal about equity for women’s athletics.

She talked about Aliyah Boston, the top player in women’s college basketball with South Carolina, who wasn’t invited to the ESPYs, hosted by Curry. Staley acknowledged the top men’s player also wasn’t invited, but in a celebration of sports for the entire year, excluding one of the biggest stories in women’s sports was a slight.

“Equal does not mean equitable,” she said. “There are some things we want in the women’s game the men don’t want and some things they want that we don’t want.”

Staley said roughly 45 minutes after she tweeted about Boston’s ESPYs snub and how important the show is as a platform for women’s sports, Boston was texted an invite.

Gray and Wilson also highlighted accessibility in coverage of women’s basketball, particularly how difficult it is to watch WNBA games.

“You have to open up three tabs, you have to close it, come back and refresh, go to the homepage, and then by that point it’s halftime,” said Wilson, the 2022 WNBA MVP. “I really wish we could get the visibility.”

Staley quipped WNBA League Pass owes her money after not being able to watch most of the streaming games, and Gray cited “innovative” ways to broadcast, such as the deal with Amazon Prime a year ago.

“These bigger companies can join the fight,” she said. “I think that’s when you start to see growth.”

The South Carolina and Stanford game on Sunday is in front of a national audience on ABC, with the teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country facing off for just the 63rd time in the regular season. Staley said in her news conference on Saturday, “Are we excited that we’re playing on ABC up against the NFL, men’s collegiate basketball? Obviously, there’s a space for it, otherwise it would not be televised nationally.”

Gray and Wilson brought the first-ever title to the Aces and Las Vegas professional sports as a whole, with Gray taking Finals MVP following a historic performance. The WNBA enjoyed its highest ratings ever over the course of the 2022 season for its televised games on ESPN.

As the national audience grew, so has local desire.

In an interview with the Chronicle, Gray said about her home Bay Area potentially getting a WNBA team in the future, “It’d be awesome to be able to travel out here and to see a team. I think I think the Bay Area would treat them well and welcome them with open arms.”

The Warriors wore their City Edition uniform on Friday, which was designed by Oakland-based artist and muralist Allison Hueman to honor the women’s suffrage movement, with a yellow-gold rose in the center.

The Warriors and Rakuten are donating $25,000 to the Women’s Sports Foundation, who had a presence at the game, and on the panel.

Marisa Ingemi is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected]

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