LSU vs. Iowa: The tale of two Americas

OPINION: Racists and bigots love to talk about being a "colorblind" society. But the faux controversy over Angel Reese's celebration only reaffirmed what we already know: The other America is hardly colorblind.

Angel Reese #10 of the LSU Lady Tigers reacts in front of Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes towards the end of the 2023 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament championship game at American Airlines Center on April 02, 2023 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Two Americas squared off over the weekend in the NCAA women’s Final Four. Each won a game. 

Louisiana State beat Iowa for the championship Sunday, avenging South Carolina’s loss against Iowa on Friday. Both contests felt like expressions of this country’s culture war, a fight that has escalated since 2016 but has been waged from the start.

Racists and bigots love to talk about a “colorblind” society, misrepresenting MLK’s dream while pushing agendas that harm Black people. “We don’t see color,” they sniff as if adherence to that fantasy proves moral superiority. 

But no one must lose their vision in order to achieve King’s dream. 

Anyone who says they didn’t notice a glaring difference between LSU/South Carolina and Iowa is either lying or needs an eye exam. It was clear as a chief distinction between Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa. 

In one corner, you had Black girls with lengthy lashes and assorted hairdos. LSU’s Angel Reese, aka “The Bayou Barbie,” wore a one-legged sleeve that was reminiscent of Flo Jo. South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston rocked long, colorful braids that obscured her uniform number. The coaches made their own fashion statements, loud and flashy for LSU’s Kim Mulkey, and chill and hip-hop for S.C.’s Dawn Staley. 

In the other corner, you had Iowa’s all-white starting lineup with a generational player in Caitlin Clark. The only thing that stood out was their skills. Like Iowa’s coach, Lisa Bluder, their aesthetic was plain Jane, good ol’ fashioned blandness. They looked like the “all-American” girls that Norman Rockwell featured before he painted Ruby Bridges

It’s not the Hawkeyes’ fault, but I bet they were loved instantly wherever learning about Bridges is under threat. I bet some Louisianians unexpectedly and perhaps unashamedly felt a tug to support Iowa. I get it. People have a natural affinity for those who bear a resemblance.

Iowa resembled one America. LSU/South Carolina resembled the other. Folks who missed that dynamic on the court could see it after both games.

Social media went into full uproar Sunday, with the game decided when Reese did the “you can’t see me” gesture toward Clark. Then Reese pointed to her ring finger, soon to be fitted for championship bling.

“No class” and “classless” began to trend as critics assailed Reese for taunting her opponent. Funny how such outrage didn’t materialize a week earlier when Clark did the same John Cena move during her 40-point triple-double against Louisville.

Clark talks smack as well as she plays, which is exquisitely. She exhibits a swagger and showmanship that’s rarely seen, especially from white athletes. It’s all good when she’s on your side, draining threes, dishing out assists, playing to the crowd and dominating the opponent — talking trash in the process. Then it’s cute.

But when Reese does likewise, it’s ugly? Just a Black girl from Baltimore with poor sportsmanship? GTFOHWTBS.

“All year, I was critiqued about who I was,” Reese told reporters afterward. “I don’t fit the narrative. I don’t fit the box y’all want me to be in. ’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 is for the girls that look like me.”

Athletics are almost the only place that celebrate such girls. But only if they fit in. 

angel reese celebration,
LSU’s Angel Reese reacts in front of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark during the second half of the NCAA Women’s Final Four championship basketball game Sunday, April 2, 2023, in Dallas. LSU won 102-85 to win the championship. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Can’t be too loud, demonstrative, or showy. Can’t breach someone else’s norms for being humble and showing respect. Can’t be their authentic and unapologetically Black selves, however they define that.

And they can’t be too big, strong, physical or aggressive. South Carolina has faced those charges throughout Daley’s excellent reign (five Final Fours with two titles). Iowa coach Lisa Bluder fed into the antiquated trope prior to Friday’s game, when she described rebounding against the Gamecocks as “going to a bar fight.” 

Staley is sick and tired of such characterizations and let everyone know. “We’re not bar fighters,” she said afterward. “We’re not thugs. We’re not monkeys. We’re not street fighters. I do think that’s sometimes brought into the game and it hurts.”

It also hurt to watch South Carolina’s perfect season and shot at back-to-back titles come to an end. But it was pure joy to witness Clark’s second straight game with 41 points. 

Regardless of your rooting interests, you can’t love this sport without loving how she hoops. She captivates fans and little girls of every color, expanding their concept of the imaginable. Women’s college basketball is better with her.

I wanted Clark to go off (she scored 30) while LSU won comfortably, making up for Friday’s disheartening result. The faux controversy with Reese only reaffirmed what we know: The other America is hardly colorblind. 

We’re reminded constantly when it refuses to recognize our humanity, our history and our rights. Daley criticized media members for taking a skin-deep approach in covering her team.

“If you really knew them, like you really want to know other players that represent this game, you would think differently,” Staley said. “You may not like how we play the game, you may not like it, that’s the way we play. That’s the way I coach.”

It’s fine with us. 

And LSU had our backs.

Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Please download theGrio mobile apps today!