Ball going through net. Photograph by Markus Spiske via rawpixel.com
You couldn’t escape hearing Angel Reese’s name in sports media these past few weeks, and for good reason: this NCAAW star continued to make a name for herself after winning the national championship with LSU, showing her competitive spirit against opponent Iowa in the title game, where she had 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. In the game, Reese was seen making competitive hand gestures at Caitlin Clark, another rising star in the NCAAW. Clark made a similar hand gesture a game earlier in the final four matchup with last year’s champion, South Carolina.
Now, you wouldn’t think this would become a big issue considering it’s in the heat of the game and basketball is a competitive sport. Yet it was, and Reese received hate from all angles, most notably Barstool Sports owner David Portnoy calling the star a ”classless piece of sh*t” on Twitter. That’s the problem: why is Reese’s competitive behavior being scrutinized to the point that the owner of a major sports and overall media outlet goes to Twitter and says something like that? In every sport, you can pinpoint a player who engages in competitive taunting. For example, Patrick Beverly and Dillon Brooks in the NBA, or Cam Newton in the NFL back in the day. Conor McGregor in the UFC made a name for himself for how he got under his opponents skin, on top of his wins.
This is not to say that these players don’t get their fair share of hate because of their competitive taunting. But let’s not act like Angel Reese’s hand gestures were an outlier from anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s an obvious double standard that really shows how women are looked at when it comes to playing sports or just showing even the slightest bit of aggression. Some critics of Reese took the approach that Caitlin Clark didn’t deserve to be mocked or taunted at. But Clark herself said in an ESPN interview last week that “I don’t think Angel should be criticized at all… 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.”
Now what? If Caitlin didn’t have a problem with it, then why should anyone else? We get it; everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but when you’re spreading it on the Internet, it’s important to have some type of media literacy, no matter how little. Reese has had her fair share of love as well, coming from some big names like Shaquille O’Neal, Michael B. Jordan, Stephen A. Smith, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and more. Angel Reese will become a household name for the sport she plays. Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark will be a matchup to look out for next season with all this newfound enthusiasm, and for good reason because of how well they play. Double standards plague all types of careers and sports we have in this world, but it’s important to acknowledge when they’re happening because it shouldn’t be something that’s left unchecked, especially in today’s world.
Isaiah Ireland is a second-year Media and Culture major with a minor in Digital Marketing. II978280@wcupa.edu.