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Opinion: The Over-Policing of Black Women’s Emotions in Sports 

Angel Reese of the LSU Lady Tigers reacts towards Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the fourth quarter OF the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

With more attention today on the women’s NCAA basketball tournament than ever before, more people are beginning to notice the double standards placed on Black women in sports that aren’t faced by their white or male counterparts.

LSU and their star player Angel Reese exposed undeniable truths about the sports community through their win in the women’s national championship game. In victory, Reese took the opportunity to give Iowa’s star guard, Caitlin Clark, a taste of her own medicine by mimicking the “you can’t see me” hand motion popularly done by John Cena. This celebration was inspired by Caitlyn Clark’s performance of the gesture after a final four victory against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Many fans and commentators expressed their detest for Reese’s actions, referring to her as “ classless” or “ghetto” despite Clark making the same gesture only 48 hours prior. 

The reactions to Reese’s gestures exposed a broader issue in the sports community as a whole, which is the hypocrisy that people often display when it comes to Black women expressing their emotions through actions. People are often quick to refer to Black women as too emotional, dramatic, or angry in their day-to-day lives, but in sports where the intensity levels are often amplified; the over-policing of their emotions becomes a factor for fans, commentators, and even referees who dictate the “temperature” at which the game is played. 

Nile Miller, a freshman forward for the Howard University women’s basketball team expressed her thoughts about the Reese versus Clark situation. “I think the public sees a Black, passionate young woman in sports and wants to display it as ghetto or classless, but many men in sports react the same and sometimes even more passionately but the public idolizes them for it. Nonetheless, Caitlyn did the same hand motion and is probably one of the most arrogant players in college! They are both very talented & both have every reason to talk their stuff! I also find it weird how the media is talking about this instead of the fact LSU just broke a record,” Miller told The Hilltop.

This has proven to be an issue that lies not only in race. Oftentimes, the Black male counterparts of female athletes are encouraged and expected to show a larger range of emotions during performances than Black women are. Big time NBA stars display “arrogance” through taunting routinely, and most of the time these acts are celebrated by the media and fans. Taylor Matthews, a sophomore lacrosse player for Howard University, commented on the different experience in sports between men and women.

“I believe the feeling of restraint is exclusive to Black women because Black men in the NBA often do celebrations and no one badgers them about it. I also believe it’s because women are supposed to be prim and proper and not do things like that. People already see a muscular or athletic female and make jokes [like] ‘that’s a man’ etc., so now female athletes are being cocky on top of the ‘masculine belief’ and that’s why people are freaking out,” Matthews said.

The game can also be affected by biases through refereeing, and unconsciously biased officiating. Miller feels that her personal game has been affected by this at times. “You can’t emote too loudly or too big because it always results in a tech. Referees are very sensitive in the MEAC,” Miller added.

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Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee


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