WNBA stalwart first basketball player so honored

Updated: August 17, 2004, 8:28 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Basketball star Dawn Staley will carry the U.S. flag during Friday's opening ceremony, a highlight in an Olympic career that already includes two gold medals.

Dawn Staley
Dawn Staley got to lead the United States' contingent into the Opening Ceremony.
Staley, the first basketball player to lead the U.S. delegation at an Olympics, was chosen by captains from each of the U.S. teams.

"It's something that caught me completely off guard. It's a fairy tale that somehow ended up in my lap," she said Thursday at a news conference. "To lead the U.S. delegation into the stadium, it's incredible. It might be an out-of-body experience for me."

Staley, 34, plays for the WNBA's Charlotte Sting and coaches the women's basketball team at Temple. She runs a foundation that works with inner-city children in her hometown of Philadelphia, one of the factors that team captains considered when voting for the flag bearer.

U.S. Olympic Committee officials said Thursday that they have lectured American athletes about decorum during the opening ceremony and throughout the Athens Games.

Though athletes will not be discouraged from showing emotion, they have been told to avoid overt displays of nationalism that could be seen by Greeks and others as inappropriate.

"We've told the athletes we can start a new tradition here," said Herman Frazier, chief of the U.S. team and a USOC vice president. "We look for a very nice and orderly team here.

"This is not about being unpatriotic. Let's just be cognizant of what's around us out there. All we're saying is don't break the ranks in the lines."

Staley said it's hard to stay calm amid the excitement of marching into a packed stadium, where some people undoubtedly will be chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A" as the American delegation passes by. But she says the athletes will keep in mind that they're being watched around the world.

"We're going to be more conscious of how we're viewed on TV and in the stadium," she said.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press