When Louisiana State University won the NCAA women’s basketball championship, the star player was Angel Reese He held her hand and pointed to her ring finger – Because he was going to get a championship ring. Reese received criticism for the gesture, which was directed at her opponent Caitlin Clarke. Now, Clarke and the others are protecting him.
Reese also waved his hands in front of his face, the “you can’t see me” gesture popularized by wrestler John Cena. Clarke also hinted in earlier games during the tournament.
To some, these gestures were simple trash talk between the two rivals. But after Reese, who is black, made the gesture, some said it was unsportsmanlike — prompting her rival, her coach and a fellow champion to come to her defense.
“I don’t think Angel should be criticized,” Clark told ESPN on Tuesday. “I’m just someone who competes, and she competed. I think everyone knew there was going to be a little trash talk throughout the tournament. It wasn’t just me and Angel.”
There was much criticism on Twitter, which Reese admitted During a press conference after the win, “Twitter is going crazy every time.”
“Throughout the year, I was criticized for who I was,” he said. “I don’t fit the narrative, I don’t fit the box you want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. You all told me that all year. But when people do it, and you don’t say anything.”
“So it’s for girls who look like me, it’s about speaking up for what they believe in,” Reese said. “It’s unnecessarily you. And I did it for tonight. It was bigger than me tonight.”
Reese’s coach Kim Mulk also defended him. “He’s not going to apologize for it,” he said in an interview with “Today” on Monday.
“That kid is a beast rebounding on the boards. That kid just won a national championship. He’s not afraid of social media. He’s an angel,” Mulkey said. “He trash-talks on the court, but he doesn’t really cross the line of obscenity.”
Reese and his teammates won’t be the only ones receiving championship rings – his cousin Jordan Hawkins will be as well.
Hawkins, who like Reese grew up in Maryland, won NCAA Men’s Championship with UConn. After his team’s big win, he spoke to reporters and defended his cousin. “Angel has the heart of a lion, she’s not worried about any of that,” he said. “He’s from the dirt streets of Baltimore, so he’s the toughest of the tough. It’s nothing to him.”
During an interview on “Today” Tuesday, she said Reese told her he was proud of her. “We both said we have to go home now for the cookout. I know it’s going to be crazy. The whole family will be there,” she said of their victory celebration.
After the win, Reese said she was proud to help grow women’s basketball. One thing he doesn’t want to change: which party gets to visit the White House. It’s customary for the winning team to visit, but First Lady Jill Biden said she’s going to suggest that to the president Iowa should also attend, “Because they played such a good game.”
In a tweet, Reese called the idea a “joke.” And in his ESPN interview, Clark agreed that only winners should attend. “This is for LSU,” he said on “SportsCenter.” “They should enjoy every second of being champions. I think that’s up to them.”
“I don’t think runners-up usually go to the White House. LSU should enjoy that moment for them. And congratulations, obviously, they deserve to go there. Maybe I could go to the White House (someday) under different conditions,” he said.
Iowa head coach Lynn Bauer invited Mrs. Biden to visit their arena instead.