LSU star Angel Reese’s “You Can’t See Me” gesture was deemed “classless” by some, but widely celebrated when done by a white player, Caitlyn Clark. The situation exposes yet another fissure within our societal foundation, a reminder of the problems Black women still face when it comes to race, gender and implicit bias.
We love Angel Reese.
We hate Angel Reese.
You can’t find another more polarizing figure in sports these days, than Reese.
She was a central figure in the LSU women’s basketball team winning a national championship by defeating Iowa and Caitlyn Clark, the National Player of the Year.
Reese also authored one of the great tournament clap-backs when she gave Clark, a great trash-talker in her own right, a taste of her own vitriol but in a much larger dose.
The Reese haters seem to think 10 seconds of taunting is classless but three seconds of the same taunt is OK. And for those who ask why race comes into play, it’s really simple.
Two of the game’s biggest trash talkers are white players; Caitlyn Clark and Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith. Both have had multiple moments this season when their trash talk was out there, and the response almost universally had been one of praise.
ESPN actually did a special on Clark being the “Queen of Clapbacks.”
That kind of love and adoration has not been there for Reese whose “You can’t see me now” gesture —the exact same gesture Clark used earlier in the tournament—has been vilified repeatedly in the days since.
It’s disappointing that this is what it has taken for the women’s college game to dominate sports talk. But therein lies the silver lining: the talk in the sports world right now is centered around women
And these conversations are ones that make a lot of people uncomfortable, many of whom would prefer to play the “it’s not a big deal” card in hopes that the conversations that have been sparked, will die a quick death.
Or those who don’t recognize the misogyny of this issue, knowing damn well men have been talking smack on and off the court years. It’s to the point now where it not only happens in games, but networks create programming that’s driven in large part by smack-talk conversations.
"Men have always had trash talk,” Clark said in an interview with ESPN. “You should be able to play with that emotion ... That's how every girl should continue to play."
The amount of energy and effort folks have used in trying to gaslight all women, but especially Black women, into thinking the unequal treatment they point out is just in their heads, and that race isn’t a factor in them being treated differently from whites when example after example makes this clear. We see these attempts at whitewashing the facts happen all the time.
This is the kind of renewable energy out there in the world that we don’t need.
What we do need is to continue to have those straight-no-chaser conversations about race and gender and inequality.
Because the longer we continue to sweep it under the rug and pretend as though it’s not a problem, eventually it’ll become a huge, hot mess that becomes even tougher and more time-consuming to fix or clean up.
It feels like we’re already at that point now when you look at the way so many are blundering their way through these uncomfortable but necessary conversations.
First Lady Jill Biden chimed in with her thoughts on the title game.
"I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House, we always do,” she told reporters after the game. “So, we hope LSU will come. But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe [Biden] I think Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game."
LSU won by 17 points and scored 102 points—the most ever scored in a national semi-final or final game.
One can understand why Reese wasn’t trying to accept the White House’s efforts afterward to clean up that take (which they said had more to do with sportsmanship than anything else) from the First Lady that did not age well.
“I don’t accept the apology. You can’t go back on certain things that you say,” said Reese on the I Am Athlete Podcast, hosted by Brandon Marshall and Ashley Nicole Moss. “You felt like they should have came because of sportsmanship, right? They can have that spotlight. We’ll go to the Obamas, we’ll see Michelle, we’ll see Barack.”
Now that’s a clapback!
And it’s authentic, funny and absolutely on script with Reese’s personality which is one of the many levels and layers to Black womanhood and the conversations about what that looks and sounds like, in the societal arena of sports.
Reese is who she is, and makes no apologies about that nor should she. Her persona is not the kind that is going to be wholeheartedly embraced by all, which is great to see.
Because she’s remaining true to who she is. And sometimes that can be messy; other times it can be amazing. But all the time, its’ Angel Reese.
And that is something you will love, or you will loathe.
There is no safe zone that will allow you to just meander in your thoughts about her, and not take a side. She is constantly reminding us that she’s more than just a really good basketball player. She has the power to influence many, create opportunities many have not even considered possible.
And she’s doing this because the opportunity to do so is now; the kind of opportunity that so many Black women have not been afforded in the past.
She’s an original in every sense of the word; an original who is sparking the kind of change and the conversations to bring about change that are long overdue.