By Stacy M. Brown
LSU’s Angel Reese’s post-game gesture has sparked a conversation about double standards in basketball.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock in LSU’s dominating 102-85 victory over Iowa, Reese waved her hand in front of her face, stared at Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, and pointed towards her ring finger.
Reese made it clear; she was the one going home with the championship ring.
For all the trash-talking and lack of sportsmanship on Clark’s part, Reese received the backlash.
Commentators including longtime sportscaster and former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann, the response was telling.
Olbermann called Reese a “f-ing idiot,” while others called her a “hood rat.”
Shaquille O’Neil, the NBA hall of famer who played for LSU’s men’s basketball team in the 1990s, told Olbermann to shut up.
Reese, the Black superstar, was taking to task on social media for lacking grace in victory.
After the game, and to her credit, Reese remained unapologetic.
“All year, I was critiqued for who I was. I don’t fit the narrative,” Reese explained.
“I’m too ‘hood. I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year.”
As many have noted, there remains a divide between white and African American women over opportunities and perception.
White players are considered tough and fundamentally sound, while Black players are seen as flashy brawlers, noted sports columnist William Rhoden observed.
In this case, the focus was on double standards.
Black players are vilified for doing the same things white players are praised for doing.
Caitlin Clark’s trash talk gestures had been lauded throughout the NCAA tournament, Rhoden continued.
Clark repeatedly made the “you can’t see me” gesture during Iowa’s win over Louisville in the Elite Eight.
She was heralded as confident and brash.
Clark followed up her “you can’t see me” gesture Friday against South Carolina freshman guard Raven Johnson.
Rhoden noted that Clark finally got her comeuppance when Reese lit her up for 15 points and 10 boards, eventually earning the women’s NCAA tournament’s most outstanding player.
Reese played brilliantly in an overall team effort that frustrated Clark, who was called at least twice for pushing off the ball and picked up four fouls.
Clark claimed afterward that she didn’t see Reese’s gesture, and Iowa’s head coach Lisa Bluder gave a near muted response, saying “We’re all different people, and we all have different ways to show our emotion.”
In other words, it was fine when her player – a white athlete – gestured, but not-so-cool when the winning player – a Black champion – gave a little back.
“Ultimately, the conversation around Reese’s gesture is not just about trash talk; it’s about how Black players are perceived differently than white players,” Rhoden stated.
“Reese’s gesture was an unapologetic response to the criticism she has faced all year.”
And, as white commentators like Olbermann continued their rhetoric and race-baiting, Black sportscasters like Rhoden, ESPN’S Stephen A. Smith, and FS1’s Shannon Sharpe, stepped up to back Reese.
“We see it two different ways… when Caitlin Clark did the John Cena it was considered ‘swag,’” Sharpe remarked.
“Angel Reese does the same gesture it’s considered ‘classless.’ “It’s funny how America – society sees black and white.”
Sharpe wasn’t done.
“Angel Reese said ‘unapologetically me.’ She meant unapologetically Black. It’s … it’s so obvious what this is. This is not about anything other than race.”
“One is a celebration and is celebrated. The other is condemned. And why? Only because a Black did the exact same gesture that a white female did 48 hours earlier.
“Trash talk is a part of the game. But white trash talk and black trash talk is viewed entirely different and we know why.”
On his First Take show, Smith also went in on the race issue.
“We all know that there’s a white-black issue here, because the fact of that matter is when Caitlin did it, people were celebrating it. And they were talking about nothing but her greatness,” Smith railed.
“But, the second a sister stepped up and threw it back in her face, now you’ve got half the basketball world saying ‘Well, you know what, that’s not the classiest thing to do.”
“Clark kind of instigated this and the fact that hasn’t been brought up tells us a lot about our society as a whole. You know exactly what the hell you’re doing as people when you want to bring up how Angel Reese acted, but you don’t want to bring up how Caitlin Clark acted. That’s the inconsistency. That’s the story.”