Charles Barkley calls the Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese controversy ‘unfortunate’
The LSU Tigers captured the first national championship in the history of the women’s basketball program in front of a record-breaking amount of viewers.
Sunday’s title game drew an average of 9.9 million viewers and peaked at approximately 12.6 million viewers, ESPN said Monday. Those numbers shattered the previous record of 5.7 million viewers for an NCAA women’s tournament game.
But much of the talk has not been about the Tigers’ dominating win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. The focus instead has been on the interaction between two of college basketball’s brightest stars.
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LSU forward Angel Reese sparked reactions from every corner of the sports world when she made gestures toward Iowa guard Caitlin Clark in the final minutes of the championship game.
Reese approached Clark before moving her open hand in front of her face. The motion, which symbolizes “you can’t see me,” was popularized by WWE star John Cena.
CAITLIN CLARK SHOOTS DOWN IDEA OF VISITING WHITE HOUSE WITH NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: ‘THAT’S FOR LSU’
Reese, a first-team all-American, later pointed to her finger in reference to where her championship ring would go.
Cena recently approved of Caitlin Clark’s use of the “you can’t see me” taunt when she used it during a game against Louisville in the Elite Eight.
Some fans and sports pundits spoke out against Reese’s gestures while others came to her defense. Basketball Hall of Famer and NBA analyst Charles Barkley, who was a part of the coverage of the NCAA’s men’s tournament, shared his thoughts about the controversy.
“Well, I thought it took away from the game,” Barkley said Monday. “In fairness, Caitlin did that in a game before. I just thought it brought too much attention away from a great performance because she’s amazing.
“And you got all these fools on the internet and on television, who, well, first they gonna make it about race, which is part of it. They deserve to celebrate. I thought it was unfortunate because people are talking more about that than they are about a great performance.”
When Clark was asked about Reese’s actions, the Hawkeyes guard said she did not see the gesture in the moment. On Tuesday, during an appearance on ESPN, Clark said she did not take issue with Reese.
Clark, who won the Wooden Award as National Player of the Year Tuesday, also hinted at a double standard between men and women as it relates to trash talking.
“I think men have always had trash talk. That’s what it’s been, and I think more and more people, as they turn on the game, they’re appreciating it for what it is,” Clark said Tuesday.
“I’m just lucky enough that I get to play this game and have emotion and wear it on my sleeves, and so does everybody else. So that should never be torn down, that should never be criticized, because I believe that’s what makes this game so fun. That’s what draws people to this game. That’s what draws it to the pro level, to college level, to the high school level. Either way, it doesn’t matter.”
During a postgame media session, Reese defended her actions.
“I don’t fit in the box that y’all want me to be in,” Reese said. “I’m too hood, I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year. But when other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing. So this was for the girls that look like me.”
Reese said the negative reactions she received over the course of the season helped fuel her outstanding season. She finished the season averaging 23.0 points and 15.4 rebounds and was named the most outstanding player of the women’s NCAA Tournament.
“Twitter can say what they want to say,” Reese noted. “I love reading those comments. I have all the screenshots of what everybody has said about me all season. What are you going to say now?”
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