Angel Reese…LSU Lady Tigers Controversy…Bigger Than Basketball

Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief Data News Weekly

It was a great season for the LSU Lady Tigers Basketball Team. Last year’s NCAA Champions made it to the Elite 8 this year, to be eliminated by their arch-rival Iowa led by Caitlyn Clark. This season the team took on more than basketball. It was one where the politics of race and gender became apparent. This was evident recently, as the Los Angeles Times apologized for publishing a story characterizing the team as “basketball villains and dirty debutants.” Historically, sports are often a proxy for politics, and these narratives are nothing new. In many ways. This is an “instant replay” whether it was Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James, and now Angel Reese. This subtext that demonizes Black excellence is from the “racist playbook” of a country that was founded on the faulty premise that denied a people’s humanity.

After a collective outcry of criticism, the writer Ben Bolch wrote on social media that he “failed miserably” in his choice of words and offered an apology when crafting his piece. Arguably, one that smacks of journalistic malfeasance. The fact that he and his editors did not see the explicit bias in this piece was both abhorrent and irresponsible. First, not being aware that they are speaking of young ladies and referring to them as “dirty debutants” is offensive, misogynistic, and racist to the core.

Moreover, the vitriol that’s been aimed at LSU star Angel Reese, who’s had to experience this season is problematic, to say the least. In a press conference with tears rolling down her face spoke of death threats and online abuse she’s had to endure this season after winning the National Championship last year. She also stated, “I’ve been through so much, I’ve seen so much, I’ve been attacked so many times. Death threats, I’ve been sexualized, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been so many things and I’ve stood strong every single time.”

Her most telling and impactful words during this press conference were, “I’m still human. All this happened since I won the national championship. I haven’t had any peace since, and I would not change anything and say I am unapologetically me and the little girls that look up to me and hopefully it’s not that hard but keep being who you are.”

While criticisms of the LA Times article came from every direction and had to be walked back by the writer and the newspaper, it speaks to the larger problem of racism and misogyny in American society. Of course, in the realm of sports trash talking and rooting for your team is part of the game. But in this case, it went too far, and we must begin to think of the impact of our words before we speak, publish, or write things on social media that can be hurtful, and bullying to others.

We say to Angel Reese and all the Lady Tigers, that you are champions both on and off the court. Keep inspiring young ladies (and men) to greatness in their “Pursuit of Excellence.” And “Yes We Can” continue the work of becoming “A More Perfect Union.”

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