As a basketball fan, March Madness is my favorite time of year. It is the pinnacle of the basketball season, a time to shine! I thoroughly enjoyed the Lady Vols in the ’90s and 2000s. Lately, I’ve been rooting for Dawn Staley and the South Carolina Gamecocks. I watched the Final Four game and I was looking forward to the Lady Gamecocks repeating winning another title, back to back! Now that would have been epic! Instead, Caitlin Clark single-handedly ended their 38-game winning streak. Caitlin Clark is a great basketball player and she’s being compared to Steph Curry because she is an amazing shooter. Once the Lady Gamecocks lost, I decided I’d root for LSU and the Lady Tigers; after all, they would make history if they won.
I actually missed the championship game but watched a 20-minute highlight reel and I got caught up in all of the controversy surrounding the game. I was happy the LSU Lady Tigers made history by winning their first national title. I must admit, I wasn’t very familiar with Angel Reese or the LSU program, but that changed Sunday, April 2!
Angel Reese is a shero! She is unapologetically Black, a woman, and a baller! Why can’t we be who we are on and off the court? I admire how at 20 years old, this young lady has embraced her Blackness. She’s shown confidence, courage and strength on and off the court. Angel broke the record for the most double-doubles in a season! Now that’s major and highlights her greatness.
The double standard with women of color is sickening. The media and coaches from opposing teams have the nerve to make comments like “they are playing bully ball” and “it’s like being in a bar fight.” For real? STOP IT!
I’ve been playing basketball since I was a child. Good White teams have a reputation for being fundamentally sound and physical, a totally different narrative from our sisters. I remember going to small towns back in the ’90s for a game and the environment in the gym would be very hostile—name calling, boos from fans, lots of trash talking and cheating referees. Many times it would feel like we were playing seven against five because the referees would not call the game fair. The discrimination against Black women is not new.
What is new and refreshing is that young women athletes like Angel Reese, Aliyah Boston, Alexis Morris, Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka and countless others are standing in their truth. They are unapologetically Black. They defend themselves when necessary and do what’s best for their mental health and they represent their sport with class.
I am not surprised by the outrage and attention that the “You can’t see me” gesture is getting. Caitlin Clark copied the gesture from wrestler John Cena, who admitted to copying it from rap artist Tony Yayo of G-Unit—a Black man. They can use gestures, talk trash, play aggressive and it’s viewed as playing fundamentally sound and physical, but when our Black women talk trash and play aggressively it’s deemed as bully ball and manhandling. Now Angel Reese is being called classless because she mimicked Catlin Clark. Caitlin Clark started using the “You can’t see me” gesture during March Madness and Angel Reese finished it.
Is it White privilege that Iowa was invited to the White House? This is a clear example of unconscious bias or is it conscious bias? First Lady Jill Biden had the audacity to think it was okay to invite the loser to the White House. For what, some type of consolation prize? I’ll state the obvious: the LSU Lady Tigers would have never ever been considered to attend the White House if they lost the game. It would have been too bad, so sad, try again next year. It is clear the Black woman is the most disrespected and least protected woman in the world.
I love the game! I’ve been playing basketball since I was 10 years old. My father taught me how to play. My father was also my coach from elementary through high school. I had the opportunity to coach 7th grade girls basketball with him and we won two city titles back-to-back. Growing up in the ’90s, I always admired women’s basketball legends like Sheryl Swoops, Tamika Catchings and Dawn Staley. I’ve been a fan of women’s basketball as far as I can remember, and because I am a fan I look forward to March Madness every year. Although I was looking forward to seeing South Carolina repeat and face LSU in the final game, I was very happy LSU beat Iowa! Why? Because when they win, we win and the LSU Lady Tigers did just that, won their first NCAA Championship! The game was an instant classic because of the talent, but the overt racism and backlash behind the “You can’t see me” gesture may overshadow the LSU Lady Tigers victory. Not for me, I will never forget our sister, queen Angel Reese and her teammates. They’ve been the epitome of style, grace and Black excellence!
Nakissia W. Rawls is a mentor, high school basketball coach and sports fan who resides in Columbus, Ohio.