Sports stars teach us how to confront racism

Published 5:27 pm Friday, April 14, 2023

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To the Editor:

I tried to not write about the whole Angel Reese v. Caitlin Clark “controversy”, because I never thought there was any – “controversy.”

Anybody who watches or listens to sports news, knows that Reese’s Louisiana State University basketball team soundly defeated Clark’s Iowa University team in the NCAA Women’s National Title Game on Sunday, April 2. As a digital clock ticked off the final seconds of the game; Reese positioned herself in front of Clark, and did a hand gesture made famous by a part-time professional wrestler turned full time actor. The hand gesture was not vulgar in any way.

Clark had done the exact same hand gesture – to the losing team in a previous tournament game – and she was widely celebrated for doing so. But many people across America called Reese a poor winner, a “classless” thug and, (the best one) “a f—ing idiot.”

Predictably, Reese had defenders who immediately denounced the people slamming her. Reese’s allies called the uproar another example of overt racism in America.

Interestingly, Reese was named the best player of the entire national tournament, while Clark had already been named the best women’s college player in the entire nation. It’s generally agreed that both players deserved their individual awards.

The cry of “racism” from Reese’s supporters was easy to understand. As stated, there was no difference in the hand gesture made by both players. But Reese is Black and Clark is white. The color of each woman’s skin seemed to make all the difference to a lot of Americans. The incident has more layers to it but I believe racism was the main issue.

However, there was no “controversy.” Reese owned her actions and was unapologetic for what she did. Also, Reese called out people who viciously attacked her character, while giving Clark a pass for the same conduct.

For her part, Clark said she had no problem – at all – with what Reese did. Clark acknowledged having done unto others what was done unto her. She shrugged off the (now infamous) hand gesture as an example of how highly competitive people sometimes celebrate a victory. Both Reese and Clark are expected to return to their current schools next year.

Ultimately, I decided to write about the ‘Reese v. Clark’ story because it reminds me, again, of how racism often shows up in sports. To be sure, Reese and Clark are rivals, but each publicly acknowledges the other’s greatness. Reese called out the racism of some media members and fans and Clark supported her. Racism in sports and in America will continue. Fortunately, two of sports’ biggest stars have shown us how to confront it.

Edwin Horsley