Is Women’s Basketball on the Rise for all the Wrong Reasons?

by | Apr 5, 2024 | Opinion

The rising world of women’s basketball has taken the United States by storm in recent weeks, especially in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), but is the attention coming from a place that benefits the athletes?

The NCAA tournament (March Madness) is without a doubt the event gathering the most buzz on social media and television. However, the reasons for notice are beginning to take a negative toll on the players involved. The tournament was created to give them a chance to compete on one of the biggest platforms in order to spread their name, but the mission is not without side effects.

LSU Tigers forward Angel Reese is one athlete whose recent struggles were put on blast across the internet. Reese and the Tigers were defeated in the Elite Eight by college superstar Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in a national championship rematch from the year prior. The Tigers junior forward was overcome with emotion in the postgame press conference, where she detailed her struggles since becoming a national champion.

“I just try to stand strong. I’ve been through so much, I’ve seen so much, I’ve been attacked so many times. Death threats, I’ve been sexualized, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been so many things, and I’ve stood strong every single time, and I just try to stand strong for my teammates because I don’t want them to see me down,” Reese said. “I’m still human. All this has happened since I won the national championship, and I haven’t been happy since then. It sucks, but I still wouldn’t change anything.”

However, the newfound attention is not bad for everyone involved, as media companies are thriving. According to ESPN, Monday’s title rematch scored as the most-watched women’s college basketball game on record with a peak of 16.1 million viewers. Not to mention, they added the matchup was the most-watched college basketball game ever on their platforms. 

People often forget that, at 21 years old, Reese is still trying to find her way in life. Some view athletes as people on their screens rather than human beings with emotions, as she mentioned in her remark.

Despite the clear downsides of fresh interest from fans, the divide between male and female basketball players is closing thanks to it. During the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry took on WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu in a three-point contest for charity. The event was considered one of the most popular in a declining sports event, as Curry walked away victorious. The contest’s prosperity is likely leading to a bigger role next season as NBA Insider Shams Charania pointed out on FanDuel’s Run It Back.

“At this point, Stephen Curry versus Sabrina Ionescu is very likely for next year,” Charania said. “I’m told, with Caitlin Clark and potentially Klay Thompson, to make it 2v2.”

Retired NBA All-Star Paul Pierce added to the controversy by bringing race into the equation, specifically regarding the matchup between Clark and Reese. The former Boston Celtic is known for his outlandish statements in the years since his retirement.

“We saw a white girl [Caitlin Clark] in Iowa do it to a bunch of black girls,” Pierce said on an episode of Undisputed with Skip Bayless. “That gained my respect… She did it to some girls from LSU who we thought was some dawgs, defending champs, and put ’em on their knees and spanked them.”

Adding another layer of chaos to the situation, LSU was a no-show on the court for the national anthem prior to the game against the Hawkeyes. This act caused a split across social media, with some criticizing them for a lack of respect while others expressing their belief in freedom of choice.

While women’s basketball is far from perfect in its representation, finding a balance over time will allow athletes and companies to find success in unison.

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AMP America

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