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ESPN responds to Dawn Staley's blast about Aliyah Boston's ESPYs snub

Aliyah and Dawn

Dawn Staley took up for star center Aliyah Boston about what she felt was an exclusion from ESPN this week. AP/Charlie Neibergall

COLUMBIA — The annual ESPYs award show, a celebration of the best of all sports presented by ESPN, will be broadcast on Wednesday.

Hundreds of outraged South Carolina fans won’t be watching it.

National player of the year Aliyah Boston, the Gamecocks’ superstar center who led USC to its second national women's basketball championship and won every award there was for her to win — including Final Four Most Outstanding Player — is nominated for an ESPY as the Best College Athlete in Women’s Sports.

Yet she won’t be there to accept if she should win, and whoever the winner is won’t receive screen time.

Coach Dawn Staley called attention to it in a Tweet on Sunday, which stirred the masses.

“Like really …. Who in the room from @ESPN @ESPYs decided it was a great idea not to invite @MarchMadnessWBB NPOY DPOY …. Not one person was able to see the uproar this would cause?,” Staley asked. “There’s definitely something wrong with the makeup of the room …. The fight continue (sic) …. #WBBSTANDUP.”

USC fans responded by bringing up ESPN’s history, one that was called into question by former Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw this past year. McGraw said that ESPN has an “absolutely complete bias” toward another women’s basketball program, 11-time national champion Connecticut.

ESPN studios are also located in Connecticut. McGraw called ESPN “Connecticut’s network.”

Those comments didn’t go unnoticed by USC fans either, and with Boston’s exclusion from the ESPYs, they were revived. Many also pointed out the fact of the Gamecocks twice mopping the floor with UConn this past season, including in the national championship game, with Boston playing key roles in each.

It didn’t help in the title game trophy presentation that ESPN’s Holly Rowe mistakenly called Boston “Aaliyah Edwards” when naming her Final Four MOP. Edwards plays for UConn.

ESPN responded to a Post and Courier request with a statement.

“We have the utmost respect for Aliyah Boston, Dawn Staley, and the South Carolina Gamecocks,” it said. “Due to both COVID restrictions and a new venue with much less seating capacity than previous shows, the 2022 ESPYs prioritized athlete invitations to focus on specific awards that will be handed out during the broadcast.”

There will be several prizes, including the men’s and women’s best college athlete awards, that will be announced during the ESPYs preview show. That will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN.

Boston is up for the ESPY along with Florida State soccer’s Jaelin Howell, Oklahoma softball’s Jocelyn Alo and Boston College lacrosse’s Charlotte North. Alo was one of two other finalists for the Honda Cup, given to the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year, that Boston won on June 27.

Curiously, USC was not nominated for the Best Team ESPY, alongside each of the four major men’s professional sports champions, WNBA champion Chicago and two college teams, Georgia football and Oklahoma softball. The Gamecocks went 36-2, 14-0 against Top 25 teams and were ranked No. 1 wire-to-wire.



Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.

From Rock Hill, S.C., David Cloninger covers Gamecock sports. He will not rest until he owns every great film and song ever recorded.