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OU women's basketball: Sooners coach Sherri Coale apologizes after former players' claims of racial insensitivity

NORMAN — After a weekend of her former players relaying their feelings on racial insensitivity during their time playing at OU, Sooners women's basketball coach Sherri Coale released a statement Sunday night.

"To hear the concerns raised by my former student-athletes is disheartening, because it is clear that I have unknowingly caused harm to people I care deeply about," Coale said. 

"Over my career, I have taken pride in the work that I have done on the court and the commitment to the personal growth of the women I've been responsible for leading. While I have always had the intent of expressing care for others, it is clear that there have been moments where my intent has not been the same as my impact — for that, I sincerely apologize."

Friday, after OU's football team marched together in a show of unity against racial injustice from their locker room to the campus' South Oval, where Lincoln Riley delivered a speech before a moment of silence and a prayer, former Sooners women's basketball player Gioya Carter responded on Twitter to a picture of Riley speaking.

Carter said she wished she had a head coach at OU who would've done something similar.

“Instead, my four years there was filled with comments like, ‘You guys act like it happened to you. If y’all’s long braids hits one of my players in the face,’ as if the people in braids weren’t her players," Carter tweeted.

Several other players relayed negative experiences as well, including Jacqueline Jeffcoat, who tweeted that Coale had made racist comments during Jeffcoat’s time with the Sooners.

“She hit me with several racist comments after we went to Monticello in Virginia … Thomas Jefferson’s plantation,” Jeffcoat posted in response to Carter’s initial comment. “How insensitive. Told me to take down a post bc (because) I felt strongly about it. I’m with you.”

Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione released a statement as well, saying he was unaware of such concerns before they were raised beginning Friday.

"We are committed to listening," Castiglione said. "Throughout her 24 years of collegiate coaching, Coach Coale has demonstrated tremendous character and a consistent record of advocating for her student-athletes. I know Coach Coale — along with the rest of the women's basketball program leadership — joins me in eagerly availing ourselves to further engage in these important conversations."

Castiglione also said there were avenues for student-athletes to communicate concerns, even anonymously.

"My hope is that we can move forward and work together in building greater understanding as we constantly strive to be better," Castiglione said. 

Coale has coached the Sooners since 1996, winning 501 games and three Final Four appearances. 

The Sooners had a streak of 19 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances snapped in 2019 and were on track to miss the tournament again in 2020 before the postseason was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coale’s contract was recently extended through 2024.

Read the full statements from Coale and Castiglione below:


Sherri Coale's statement:

“To hear the concerns raised by my former student-athletes is disheartening, because it is clear that I have unknowingly caused harm to people I care deeply about. Over my career, I have taken pride in the work that I have done on the court and the commitment to the personal growth of the women I’ve been responsible for leading. While I have always had the intent of expressing care for others, it is clear that there have been moments where my intent has not been the same as my impact – for that, I sincerely apologize. For several years, I’ve made a concerted effort to educate myself and my players about how we can, together, create and sustain an environment in which all feel welcome and at home – a part of our women’s basketball family. While our past and present efforts in support of inclusion are ones I am proud of, I also know I should not assume that our learning and growth is ever finished. I am committed to working with my staff and my players toward continual growth. I want to ensure that any of my words or actions reflect my values, and the love I have for my student-athletes is shown in the knowledge I impart on them every day. I will continue to work and to demonstrate my commitment to increasing awareness of and appreciation for diversity, equity, and inclusion in all its forms, and I will continue to represent that same commitment on behalf of Sooner Athletics and the University of Oklahoma.”


Joe Castiglione's statement:

“When these matters were raised by former members of the women’s basketball program, we were obviously concerned. Though we were unaware of the reported concerns of insensitivity in the women’s basketball program prior to the comments that were posted in the last few days, we are committed to listening. Throughout her 24 years of collegiate coaching, Coach Coale has demonstrated tremendous character and a consistent record of advocating for her student-athletes. I know Coach Coale – along with the rest of the women’s basketball program leadership – joins me in eagerly availing ourselves to further engage in these important conversations. We have avenues through which student-athletes can converse with coaches, administrators or confidentially and anonymously with our team of sports psychologists any time they want to bring a concern to our attention, and we actively seek their input. My hope is that we can move forward and work together in building greater understanding as we constantly strive to be better.”

 

Related Photos
Inductee Sherri Coale speaks to the media during the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fames luncheon for the 2020 class of inductees at the Jeaneen and Bob Naifeh Family & Bud Wilkinson Event Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. This years inductees included, Tommy Chesbro: Wrestling, Oklahoma State University, Sherri Coale: Coaching (Women's Basketball), University of Oklahoma,
Eddie Griffin: Wrestling, Oklahoma State University,
Stacey King: Basketball, University of Oklahoma,
Hubert F. "Hub" Reed: Basketball, Oklahoma City University, James David "Buddy" Ryan*: Coaching (NFL), Oklahoma State University and Lee Allan Smith: Contributor, University of Oklahoma Alumnus [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Inductee Sherri Coale speaks to the media during the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fames luncheon for the 2020 class of inductees at the Jeaneen and Bob Naifeh Family & Bud Wilkinson Event Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. This years inductees included, Tommy Chesbro:...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-85c29ce5ff7f1f03674f443d9e7f4536.jpg" alt="Photo - Inductee Sherri Coale speaks to the media during the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fames luncheon for the 2020 class of inductees at the Jeaneen and Bob Naifeh Family &amp;amp; Bud Wilkinson Event Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. This years inductees included, Tommy Chesbro: Wrestling, Oklahoma State University, Sherri Coale: Coaching (Women's Basketball), University of Oklahoma, Eddie Griffin: Wrestling, Oklahoma State University, Stacey King: Basketball, University of Oklahoma, Hubert F. &amp;quot;Hub&amp;quot; Reed: Basketball, Oklahoma City University, James David &amp;quot;Buddy&amp;quot; Ryan*: Coaching (NFL), Oklahoma State University and Lee Allan Smith: Contributor, University of Oklahoma Alumnus [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title="Inductee Sherri Coale speaks to the media during the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fames luncheon for the 2020 class of inductees at the Jeaneen and Bob Naifeh Family &amp;amp; Bud Wilkinson Event Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. This years inductees included, Tommy Chesbro: Wrestling, Oklahoma State University, Sherri Coale: Coaching (Women's Basketball), University of Oklahoma, Eddie Griffin: Wrestling, Oklahoma State University, Stacey King: Basketball, University of Oklahoma, Hubert F. &amp;quot;Hub&amp;quot; Reed: Basketball, Oklahoma City University, James David &amp;quot;Buddy&amp;quot; Ryan*: Coaching (NFL), Oklahoma State University and Lee Allan Smith: Contributor, University of Oklahoma Alumnus [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Inductee Sherri Coale speaks to the media during the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fames luncheon for the 2020 class of inductees at the Jeaneen and Bob Naifeh Family &amp;amp; Bud Wilkinson Event Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. This years inductees included, Tommy Chesbro: Wrestling, Oklahoma State University, Sherri Coale: Coaching (Women's Basketball), University of Oklahoma, Eddie Griffin: Wrestling, Oklahoma State University, Stacey King: Basketball, University of Oklahoma, Hubert F. &amp;quot;Hub&amp;quot; Reed: Basketball, Oklahoma City University, James David &amp;quot;Buddy&amp;quot; Ryan*: Coaching (NFL), Oklahoma State University and Lee Allan Smith: Contributor, University of Oklahoma Alumnus [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›

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