Jose Mosqueda | The Poly Post

Angel Reese taunting incident sparks questions of equality

By James Oliden, May 2, 2023

During the recent women’s national title game April 2, the Louisiana State University women’s basketball team soundly defeated Iowa by a score of 102-85 to capture the program’s first women’s basketball title, yet the main focus by media was not on the record-breaking game.

As LSU dominated Iowa by scoring the most points ever in a women’s title game, headlines focused on the Final Four’s most outstanding player, Angel Reese, using the “you can’t see me” taunt on Iowa’s Caitlyn Clark as the game was all but over, drawing heavy criticism online.

Head coach of the Bronco’s women’s basketball team Danelle Bishop saw the incident live.

“I had some people text me after the game saying, ‘I can’t believe Angel Reese did that,’” said Bishop. “And I said, ‘Well, Caitlyn Clark already did that.’”

Jose Mosqueda | The Poly Post

Clark used that same taunt against Louisville during Iowa’s Elite Eight victory. But Clark, who is white, did not receive anywhere near as much backlash for the taunting as Reece, who is Black, fueling debate about whether there was racial prejudice at play.

Bishop also noted that women’s already limited space in sports is often overshadowed by negativity.

“It’s unfortunate that all that did have to happen, and it kind of took away from the game,” said Bishop.

LSU versus Iowa became the most watched women’s basketball game in history.

While many people in online circles criticized Reese, others said ridiculing her while celebrating when white and male athletes taunt points to a double standard in sports culture.

Bishop spoke on the challenges of being a minority in any capacity attempting to break the  glass ceiling.

“I think that to get to where you want, you have to fight 1,000 times — I don’t know how many times — harder in our society to be able to receive the same respect,” said Bishop. “And it’s unfortunate, you know? We’re all people, and when people feel like they have to work 10 times harder just to be able to get the same respect that others are getting, it is discouraging.”

Whether NBA superstar LeBron James hits his signature “The Silencer” celebration or the NFL’s Aaron Rodgers sports an imaginary championship belt when scoring a touchdown, these actions, when performed by male athletes, are rarely met with criticism and are instead seen as exciting and good for the game.

Jay Mason, head coach for the Bronco’s women’s soccer team, recalled differences he has observed in how male and female athletes are treated and officiated for expressing their emotions during a game.

“I do see a difference,” said Mason. “I do think there’s a little bit of a longer leash in those moments, like a general understanding that this is how guys speak to each other, but this isn’t how a girl should speak to each other, which I think is kind of that imbalance of our view if we’re talking about genders.”

Preconceived notions of men and women handling emotions differently is a huge factor in the way they are expected to behave during everyday life.

Yet in sports, emotion, passion and adrenaline are a constant presence throughout games no matter the gender due to the competitive nature of sports.

“They’re in the heat of the competition, and for me growing up for myself, it was part of the game,” said Mason. “You knew there was going to be a certain amount of that going on, and you can call it gamesmanship — you can call it whatever you’d like — but it was just something that for a male I grew up around.”

As women’s sports have become more popular, fan expectations of performance and excitement have yet to match that of men’s sports.

“The great thing about my position is I coach the men and the women here,” said Chris Bradford, head coach of the Bronco’s men and women’s cross country and track & field team. “And so for us, there’s no difference, you know what I mean? There definitely is not a different set of rules for what our women are allowed to do compared to the men.”

Bradford says his coaching style is accommodating so that all his athletes are afforded their own freedom of expression in order to have them flourish to their maximum capabilities, whether they are naturally more expressive or reserved.

Freedom of expression is ultimately what female coaches and athletes want. They are not asking to be put on a pedestal or be allowed to disrespect whoever they want throughout their games but instead are asking to be treated equally.

“If it is allowed, then we can’t pick and choose who we want to hold responsible based on color, their skin or their gender or their sexual orientation,” said Bishop. “And it’s not fair to the individuals. It’s not right, but I think incidents like this created conversation, and I think that hopefully that conversation opens some eyes.”

Feature image by Jose Mosqueda

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