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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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OPINION | Leave your racism on sidelines 

Nathan Rich

A Los Angeles Times article last month analyzed the dynamics of two March Madness teams set to play each other in the Sweet 16 round. 

But what should have been an article about basketball quickly became an article about race.

Louisiana State University stirred the pot this season and last season with undeniable talent, fiery personalities and an audacious coach. People tend to forget the first part when talking about the team. 

LSU has dealt with extensive racist commentary on the internet. A team with mainly Black players has been called aggressive, villains, thugs, angry and every other derogatory word in the dictionary. Star player Angel Reese has been at the receiving end of the majority of these comments. After LSU’s recent loss to University of Iowa, she tearfully recounted the abuse she has received this season from basketball fans nationwide. 

Angel Reese has always been controversial because of her attitude on the court, but the situation escalated during the Iowa vs. LSU March Madness final last year. LSU had the game in the bag by the fourth quarter, and Reese pointed to her ring finger in front of Iowa player Caitlin Clark, signifying she was going to get the championship ring. What many perceived as a harmless joke was seen on social media as the crime of the century. 

For male athletes, aggression and competitiveness are positive attributes. At baseball games, men in the audience taunt the players with disrespectful chants and jokes. Male athletes often get in fights during games if someone doesn’t like a referee’s call. But when women — particularly Black women — act the same way, it becomes a problem. 

Reese was also crucified for doing the “you can’t see me” hand gesture popularized by John Cena. Just a few games before, Clark did that exact gesture to University of Louisville player, Haley Van Lith. Journalists praised her, and John Cena even tweeted to support it. There is a clear double standard in sports, for both gender and race. This problem doesn’t stop with LSU. University of South Carolina took an incredible win against Iowa in this year’s March Madness; however, all the press was directed toward Clark, not the team that just beat her. 

When L.A. Times writer Ben Bolch wrote an article painting a majority white team as good and a majority Black team as evil, people were disappointed but not surprised. What is surprising is the insane language Bolch used for this article. A few days after it was published, the L.A. Times pulled it and Bolch issued an apology. But the damage had already been done. 

Bolch started by writing about controversial LSU coach Kim Mulkey but quickly moved to attack the team as a whole. He wrote that UCLA is the team that wants to grow women’s basketball and that LSU is determined to divide it. He called LSU the country’s most polarizing team. Meanwhile, he painted UCLA as innocent while calling its coach “wholesome.” 

But his most controversial line is really where this article takes a nosedive into the realm of outstanding ignorance. Bolch poses the question “Do you prefer America’s sweethearts or its dirty debutantes? Milk and cookies or Louisiana hot sauce?” 

Comparing these women to hot sauce is already odd enough, but calling 18-year-old college girls “dirty debutantes” is disgusting. 

Words have weight to them, and this article is full of harmful stereotypes. Bolch is determined to further the racist narrative that the Louisiana State players are a form of evil. LSU is not set on dividing women’s basketball, racists are. 

For the first time in history, more people watched the women’s March Madness final game than the men’s. This is not just because of Clark’s undeniable stardom, but because the league is full of extremely talented women. Athletes don’t owe you respect or cordiality just because they are women. 

People are watching because they play basketball astoundingly well. Last season, Reese finished with 191 points, the most ever scored by any man or woman in a single NCAA tournament. This year, Clark beat the all-time NCAA scoring record with 3,681 points. These women are changing the sport of basketball as we know it, and racism and misogyny seek to disrupt this progress and invalidate their accomplishments. Women’s basketball, and women’s sports as a whole, are having a revolution — either get on board or get left behind.

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