Angel Reese’s Tearful Response to Sexist and Racist Online Criticism Is Required Listening

“I’ve been attacked so many times, death threats, I’ve been sexualized, I’ve been threatened,” the LSU star said in a post-game press conference on Monday.

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Angel Reese’s Tearful Response to Sexist and Racist Online Criticism Is Required Listening
Angel Reese in a post-game press conference, April 1, 2024.

On Monday night, the Iowa Hawkeyes advanced to the Final Four in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, beating the LSU Tigers. For fans of the former, it was something of a karmic victory given the Tigers defeated the Hawkeyes to become the 2023 champions. And, of course, the masses—fans or not—are still talking about that largely imagined rivalry between the teams’ respective standouts, Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese.

Last year, Reese—the 21-year-old star forward—suffered an onslaught of sexist and racist scrutiny after she *reviews footage* played and celebrated the very same ways Clark did. In the final seconds of the championship game, with the title all but secured for LSU, Reese directed John Cena’s infamous “you can’t see me” gesture at Clark. Then, after the buzzer sounded, Reese tapped her ring finger. The response was swift and overwhelmingly negative. Reese was repeatedly called a “thug” and worse. Meanwhile, one week earlier, when Iowa took down Louisville in the Elite Eight, Clark made the same gesture to public laudation. Cena himself gave Clark his stamp of approval and Sports Illustrated wrote that Clark “had some fun late in the game when she performed one of the most savage celebrations you’ll ever see.” Since then, both players have expressed their respect for the other on multiple occasions, but the onslaught of misogynoir hasn’t relented.

For the first time, Reese addressed all of the backlash in a post-game press conference.

“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,” Reese said through tears after Monday night’s loss. “I just try to stand strong for my teammates because I don’t want them to see me down and not be there for them. All this has happened since I won the national championship. It sucks, but I still wouldn’t change.”

Reese’s statement is especially poignant considering it arrived just days after Los Angeles Times columnist Ben Bolch wrote a profoundly sexist—and frankly, not not racist—piece about LSU as they prepared to face UCLA over the weekend. On Friday, Bolch characterized the matchup as “America’s sweethearts vs. its basketball villains,” a battle between “good and evil,” and “right versus wrong.” Most egregiously though, he likened the LSU players to “dirty debutantes” and “Louisiana hot sauce”  while the UCLA team was equated to “milk and cookies.”

No part of Bolch’s depiction of the LSU players is fair, least of all accurate. But if one wanted to be generous, they could argue that perhaps his actual target was the team’s controversial coach, Kim Mulkey—or, as he wrote in the column: a coach who “attacks” reporters. Indeed, Mulkey doesn’t have the best reputation amongst collegiate coaches. In 2021, she denounced covid testing and other regulations and quite clearly, to Bolch’s point, has a history of being hostile to journalists. More recently, a highly-anticipated Washington Post piece detailed multiple allegations of grudge-holding and homophobia toward players. Notably, Emily Niemann, who played for Mulkey at Baylor during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons, claimed that the coach told her it was “not a good look” after Niemann was seen in public with another woman and drew suspicion. Even prior to the piece being published, Mulkey threatened to sue the newspaper. After it went live, she told reporters she didn’t plan on reading it and planned to “leave it up to her attorneys.”

“I’m not going to let you attack young people, and there were some things in this commentary that you should be offended by as women,” Mulkey vented to press of Bolch’s column during a practice on Sunday. “It was so sexist. It was good versus evil in that game today. Evil? Called us dirty debutantes? Are you kidding me? “I’m not going to let you talk about 18- to 21-year-old kids in that tone.” By Monday, hours before the game, Bolch issued an apology, and certain language like “dirty debutantes” has since been removed.

“The little girls that look up to me, hopefully, I give them some type of inspiration,” Reese continued during Monday night’s press conference. “Keep waking up every day, keep being motivated, staying who you are, stand 10 toes, don’t back down, and just be confident.”

In a very touching display of solidarity, two of Reese’s teammates also spoke on her behalf in spite of the continuous criticism online.

“I know the real Angel Reese,” Flau’jae Johnson said. “And the person I see every day is a strong person…is a caring, and loving person. She’s the type of teammate that makes you believe in yourself.”

“I’ve never seen people wish bad things on someone as much as her, and it does not affect her,” Hailey Van Lith echoed. “She comes to practice every day. She lives her life every day. She lives how she wants to live and she don’t let nobody change that.”

You heard them.

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