LSU Lady Tigers forward Angel Reese (10) reacts on the bench in the fourth quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the finals of the Albany Regional in the 2024 NCAA Tournament at MVP Arena. Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

After the LSU Tigers’ loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Elite Eight, Tigers forward Angel Reese talked about how she has been treated these past few months.

“I don’t really get to stand up for myself. I mean, I have great teammates, I have a great support system, I got my hometown, I got my family that stands up for me,” she said. “I don’t really get to speak out on things just because I just try to ignore. I just try to stand strong.”

“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 — so many things, and I’ve stood strong every single time.”

If you think Reese is lying, check social media, particularly X, and see how she was dragged by people online. A lot of it involved racist images.

There were images of Reese being kneeled on like George Floyd, her being dragged behind a track in chains, and other terrible images. There are also apparently AI-generated images of her being sexualized.

Reese, just like Caitlin Clark, is a huge trash-talker, as witnessed in last year’s championship game, which often invites criticism. But this has gone too far. When an LA Times writer called Reese and her teammates “dirty debutantes,” it didn’t just seem to many as insulting and racist but also sexist.

Much of the hate the Tigers endure comes from head coach Kim Mulkey. An unflattering portrait of the coach came out recently in the Washington Post which painted her as homophobic and unwavering disciplinarian. So when the Tigers were eliminated, people cheered because of Reese as well as Mulkey. But the ugly aftermath of all of this shows how far we haven’t come when it comes to race and sexism in this country.

While women’s basketball has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, the criticism of Reese alongside the uplifting of Clark by the mainstream media is bothersome.

Reese is seen as the villain. To a certain extent, it’s understandable. She makes millions of dollars through NIL, she was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and some of her antics, such as trash-talking UCLA coaches after their Sweet 16 victory over the Bruins, rub people the wrong way.

Still, that doesn’t justify harassment by grown men and women who take pleasure in dragging a 21-year-old Black woman. Reese knows that if you’re going to be in the spotlight, you will take some hits.

LeBron James is constantly dragged by the likes of Skip Bayless and others who seem to take delight in his failures. But he’s still not treated the way Reese has been.

As far as Clark goes, she also has to learn to take some hits. Her antics last year on the court were barely discussed and she wasn’t heavily as criticized as Reese. Many see the difference as something that is literally black and white.

When sports commentator Jemele Hill pointed out the differences between the two women, she was dragged and called a “race-baiter” by angry people on social media.

“I think the media is treating it as if there’s just this anomaly that’s come along, and all we have to do is pay attention to an anomaly — and not overall the fact that the sport, before she really began catching the eye of the national public, was gaining a tremendous amount of traction. Everything about this sport has been trending up for years now. It did not just start with Caitlin Clark, but they’re treating it like it did. And so it’s already creating a false narrative that is doing the public a disservice,” Hill said.

Reese is seen at times as a “thug” while Clark is often described as “passionate” and rarely called out over her outbursts.

“There has always, unfortunately, been this undercurrent when it comes to athletes of color,” Hill continued. “There is this idea that they just need to be happy and stay in their place and only be outspoken in the ways that make the majority feel comfortable. As soon as they don’t do that, they face backlash and criticism. So I think these double standards — people think they wouldn’t exist for female athletes or in women’s sports. They’re just as prevalent as they are in men’s sports.”

It’s not just Reese experiencing this. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley was called out by Jason Whitlock recently, saying that she doesn’t appeal to people nationally, which felt like a coded way to say she doesn’t appeal to white audiences.

Staley has been the most successful coach in the game in recent years and has become an ambassador for women’s basketball. When a fight almost broke out between South Carolina and LSU during the SEC Championship Game, it was Staley who came out and apologized while Mulkey did not.

The real villains in all of this are fans and the media who resort to stereotypes and hate to diminish the accomplishments of these successful women. The fans who made Clark “The Great White Hope” while ignoring the achievements of many other female basketball stars past and present, many of them African-American.

And then there are media personalities like Jason Whitlock, Paul Pierce, Emmanuel Acho, and others who continue to not only stir up the race debate but perpetuate certain stereotypes, racial and otherwise, about women in the sport.

This should be a great time in women’s sports and these young ladies should be celebrated for their accomplishments, but it is being marred with continued incidents by fans and the media.

[, Clutch Points]

About Stacey Mickles

Stacey is a 1995 graduate of the University of Alabama who has previously worked for other publications such as Sportskeeda and Saturday Down South.