Angel Reese personifies Black authenticity

Kendal Manns, Editor-in-Chief

Black women are under a microscope in the media, especially in the athletic world. Media members are often more critical of them whether it’s for their play or for decisions they make in their personal lives. Serena and Venus Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles are just a few examples. Louisiana State University’s star forward Angel Reese is the newest athlete to be added to that list.
After a phenomenal run in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, the LSU Tigers hoisted up their first-ever national championship in a 102-85 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. After a 15-point 10-rebound performance where she also recorded five assists, three steals and one block, Reese was named the Most Outstanding Player of 2023 NCAA Women’s championship game. Unfortunately, the Tigers’ win was not the hottest topic surrounding the game. Instead, many casual fans and mainstream media outlets were focused on the “showboating” of the 20-year-old sensation toward her opponent and fellow star Caitln Clark.
Reese taunted Clark with the “You Can’t See Me” taunt made famous by WWE wrestler and Hollywood actor John Cena. Clark had done the taunt previously in the Hawkeyes matchup against the Louisville Cardinals after dropping 40 points in the Elite Eight. Social media was set ablaze with their criticism of Reese calling her actions “classless” and an example of “super ugly sportsmanship.”
American sports and political commentator and writer Keith Olbermann even went so far as to call Reese a f—ing idiot” in an April 2 tweet. He later apologized, not for what he said but for him being uninformed about the backstory on the whole ordeal. He doubled down on his point that both parties were in the wrong.
Olbermann said one final thing in his three tweet thread that was very telling. “I don’t follow hoops, college or pro, men or women.” If you do not follow something, why are you commenting on it? He is a casual “fan” that decided to comment on something he knows absolutely nothing about and in doing so hurled a disgusting insult at a 20-year-old kid. Olbermann’s comments and the many like it have overshadowed an amazing display of women’s basketball and the contributions of Reese and her teammates.
Criticisms of Reese have been a season long occurrence. The Baltimore, Maryland, native has never been shy to wear her emotions on her sleeve. She spoke on all the criticism during the championship postgame press conference. “I’m too hood, I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year,” Reese said after the championship game. “But when other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing. So this is for the girls that look like me.”
This is bigger than Reese or her teammates or even the championship itself. Reese’s success is a statement to the world that Black women can not only succeed at the highest levels, but they can do it in their own way. They do not have to fit inside the box everyone wants them to. And that should not open them up for extra criticism.
When Biles and Osaka both decided to put their mental wellbeing before the games they became famous for, they were massacred in the media. When Venus Williams wore beads in her quarter-final match against Lindsay Davenport in the 1999 Australian Open, she was heavily criticized. In all three of these situations, these women are being true to themselves and taking the time to focus on themselves and their well being.
The world has continued to try to vilify Black female athletes for being authentically themselves. It seems that those criticisms only increase the more successful you are.
Let us be honest Reese does not fit the “traditional (white) women’s basketball player mold.” She talks a lot of trash and backs it up time after time. Despite everything that was said about her over her 2023-23 campaign, she still averaged 23.0 points per game, 15.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.6 blocks for the season. She dominated and had a meteoric rise that has not been seen for a long time.
You can say what you want about her personality or taunting, but one thing that cannot be denied is that she is a certified star. She is unapologetically herself and despite only being 20 years of age, she has already made herself a beacon of hope to every little Black girl that wants to pick up a basketball but is afraid of what others might say about them.
Black women do not have to fit the “traditional” mold of a basketball player or any other sport for that matter. They can and should be able to their authentic selves regardless of who is watching. The same way the Williams sisters redefined what it means to be a Black female tennis player is the same way Reese is redefining what a Black female college basketball player looks like. And personally it is a pleasure to witness.