Sports Odds & Ends
Two female college basketball players have displayed a taunting gesture during a game this year. One player’s actions were called competitive and aggressive by commentators and others. The other player who did something similar was called classless.
Iowa’s Caitlin Clark was praised, but LSU’s Angel Reese got roasted. Clark is White; Reese is Black.
The Reese-Clark brouhaha that took place during this year’s women’s NCAAs suddenly became a hot topic on sports shows, a rare occurrence when it comes to women’s sport. But it also again raises the double standard that has long existed when it comes to race.
Reese was called an “[expletive] idiot” by Keith Olberman, who acted like Don Imus did back in 2007, when he called the majority Black Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hoes,” after they played for the national championship.
This time around, Reese played on a majority Black team as well and won a national championship against Clark’s team, which was majority White. But the same double standard occurred to cheapen the former’s accomplishment.
Too often, Black women are negatively compared to the quote-unquote “ladylike” image of their White counterparts by White media, according to ESPN/Andscape Columnist William C. Rhoden on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
Sheritha Jones wrote on her blog, “The moment Reese did the same thing Clark had done (in an earlier game), sports analysts and Twitter went crazy. Some people don’t want our women athletes to be as aggressive or have as much swag as the men—unless they are White. The backlash Reese received was both racist and sexist.”
Los Angeles native Ralinda Watts is a diversity expert who founded Ralinda Speaks, a diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm. She regularly speaks on the intersection of culture, race, identity and justice. She recently shared her expert analysis on the Reese-Clark double standard.
“You definitely see that double standard layout again,” noted Watts. “Caitlin gets words used to describe her style of play. But with Angel Reese exhibiting those same qualities, the narrative became very different.”
“It happens to Black women in the workplace and in society at large,” continued Watts, adding double standards are “multilayered.”
Watts also remembers how Aliyah Boston, the No. 1 WNBA draft pick out of South Carolina, was often treated during her college days. Despite her winning many individual honors, a national championship and a national runners-up, some media loved to show her over and over again crying after missing a game-winning shot.
“The media tended to focus instead on her failures,” said Watts. “They chose to focus on…images of her crying. Obviously, what was a very painful moment, but it was so intrusive.”
After her team’s loss to Iowa, South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley let it be known during her post-game comments to the assembled mostly White media that disparaging her majority Black team is wrong.
“We’re not bar fighters,” stressed the coach. “We’re not thugs. We’re not monkeys. We’re not street fighters.” She strongly advised the group to stop misjudging her players. “If you really know them, if you really know them…you would think differently.”
Watts pointed out, “When you look at who’s covering college sports and who’s covering women’s basketball, it’s already skewed. So it would make sense that is how the stories get reported.”
Will double standards ever leave our society? We asked this of Watts, the mother of a young Black daughter. “I think it is really important showing up as our authentic selves as Black women in whatever spaces that we’re in,” surmised Watts. “I think more importantly being able to call out behavior when we see it.
“I’m hopeful that we are at a time where we can use social media..to have your voice be heard or to be able to reject some of this negativity that comes our way. But it’s a battle.
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