On April 2, 2023, the Tigers of Louisiana State University captured the school’s first ever national championship in basketball (men’s or women’s). LSU, led by head coach Kim Mulkey and Final Four Most Outstanding Player Angel Reese, defeated the University of Iowa 102-85. The Hawkeyes were led to the title game thanks to record-breaking performances by national player of the year Caitlin Clark.
But in the days following the game, nobody wanted to talk about Kim Mulkey standing alone as the coach with the third most titles in NCAA women’s basketball history (behind Geno Auriemma and the late Pat Summit respectively). Nobody wanted to talk about the stellar first half shooting that put LSU in the driver’s seat to take the national title. Nobody wanted to talk about the fact that the game was the most watched in the history of women’s college basketball.
Everyone wanted to talk about Angel Reese.
With under a minute to go in the game and the score seemingly out of reach of Iowa to mount a comeback, Angel Reese pointed at her ring finger while looking at Caitlin Clark. She also hit the Iowa star with John Cena’s, and originally G-Unit rapper Tony Yayo's, “you can’t see me” taunt. This drew the ire of many people who decided to voice their displeasure with Reese’s taunting of Clark.
While a lot of takes over those few days made me roll my eyes, the reason why I have decided to write this Weekly Take can be attributed to Barstool president and alleged sexual predator Dave Portnoy’s tweet on how he felt about Reese’s behavior towards the end of the game. A tweet in which the 46-year-old Portnoy called the 20-year-old Reese a “classless piece of sh*t.”
Keith Olbermann, a former anchor for ESPN and a man 43 years older than Reese, also chimed in calling the LSU player an “f–ing idiot.”
What Portnoy, Olbermann and people who share similar feelings did not do is direct that exact same discourse towards Caitlin Clark when she did the exact same gesture in Iowa’s Sweet Sixteen showdown with Louisville. They were also very silent when in the same game, Clark was caught on camera telling Louisville star Hailey Van Linth “you’re down 15 points, shut up” as the Cardinals trailed late.
In Iowa’s Final Four matchup against South Carolina, Clark also waved her hand dismissively while guarding the Gamecocks’ Raven Johnson, who was at the top of the three-point line. A display that LSU guard Alexis Morris stated she found “disrespectful.”
I’m not here to critique Caitlin Clark’s methods on gaining a mental edge on her opponent. I personally love trash talking in sports. My rule has always been if it isn’t personal, you should talk all you want. The issue here is the response to Reese returning the favor. Let’s be honest, the majority of people have an issue with her acting the way she did because of two things; she’s Black and a woman.
Let’s break down that first part. Angel Reese spoke about the criticism she’s faced about the way she plays in her press conference after the championship game.
“All year, I was critiqued about who I was. I don’t fit the narrative,” Reese said. “I don’t fit the box that y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year. But when other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing. So, this is for the girls that look like me that want to speak up for what they believe in.”
Shannon Sharpe, host of ‘Undisputed’ alongside Skip Bayless, put it so eloquently when discussing the discourse the day after the game.
“This is about the portrayal of how we see it two different ways: 48 hours ago when Caitlin Clark did the John Cena, it was considered swag. When Angel Reese does the exact same gesture, it’s ‘classless,’” Sharpe said.
This double standard isn’t just limited to basketball. Take a minute and think about how many times a white quarterback in football caught on national television yelling at their sideline was referred to as ‘passionate,’ while a Black player in the same position doing the same thing has his leadership questioned.
When a white athlete is physical in their play, they’re scrappy or hard nosed, while a physical Black athlete is accused of being dirty or thuggish.
Or think about the amount of times the late, great Florence Griffith-Joyner was subjected to allegations of doping to enhance her performance. The issue is Black athletes are constantly under a microscope, which brings me to the second part of Angel Reese’s core identity: She’s a woman.
Men in sports are praised for their high intensity level of trash talk. Plain and simple. Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Philip Rivers were amongst the elite levels of trash talkers in sports history. When men talk trash, it makes the game more intense. When women do it, it’s not attractive.
I never understood the obsession with policing within women’s sports. A point that enforces the very ignorant opinion that nobody watches women’s sports is that they lack personalities. So when personalities come along, why does society like to shut them down as much as possible?
These female athletes come from the same states, cities and parks as the male ones. Trash talking is a part of sports. It’s a sign of competition. This is the reason that Caitlin Clark herself defended Reese in an interview with ESPN.
“I’m just one that competes, and she competed. I think everybody knew there was going to be a little trash talk in the entire tournament. It’s not just me and Angel,” Clark said.
Female athletes are just like their male counterparts. Intense, competitive and willing to leave it all out there on their field of play to get a win. How they express that drive and will should be celebrated. It’s bringing more eyes to their sports and allows us to see a side of them that has been discouraged for a long time.
Let women be competitive. Let women talk trash. Let women be intense and if they’re not hurting anyone, just let women be period.
Keep being you Angel. The culture loves you, Bayou Barbie.
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