The National College Women’s Basketball Championship game between Iowa State and LSU was the highest-rated women’s basketball game in history. It was a significant moment for women’s sports, as it demonstrated the growing popularity and interest in women’s basketball.
However, amidst the excitement and celebration, controversy arose over a gesture made by Angel Reese, a star player for LSU. At the end of the game, Reese pointed to her ring finger, signifying champion, which was seen by some as unsportsmanlike conduct. Critics took to social media to express their disapproval of Reese’s gesture, which they felt was disrespectful to the opposing team.
The controversy deepened when it was noted that when the opposing team’s star player, Caitlin Clark, made a similar gesture to South Carolina, a team they beat, it was considered a competitive move. Similarly, when Joe Burrow, the National Champion for LSU and now playing in the NFL, pointed to his ring finger after winning a national championship, he was praised as the ultimate competitor.
This incident highlighted the double standard that exists based on race in sports. Reese, who is African American, was held to a different standard than her white counterparts. The unfairness of this was underscored by the fact that the same gesture was praised when done by white athletes but criticized when done by a Black athlete.
To make matters worse, the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, made a statement about inviting the losing team, Iowa, to the White House to celebrate with the Champions. Her comment was insensitive and dismissive of the hard work and effort put in by the Iowa team, despite their loss.
“I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House, we always do. So, we hope LSU will come,” she said. “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game.”
Dr. Biden’s statement puts the president in an awkward situation as a Whitehouse visit is reserved for champions, not second-place finishers or participants. In response to Dr. Biden’s suggestion, LSU star Reese Tweeted in all caps, “JOKE.”
The incident once again demonstrated the ugly face of race in sports. It is essential to continue to address issues of racism and inequality in sports and society as a whole. All athletes, regardless of their race, should be judged on their merit and performance rather than the colour of their skin.
Despite the controversy and bad officiating that impacted the game, the championship was a significant win for women’s sports. It was a reminder of women athletes’ tremendous talent and hard work, highlighting the need for continued support and recognition of women’s sports.