No matter what’s happening with Angel Reese, there’s no benefit of the doubt for LSU coach Kim Mulkey

OPINION: While rumors swirl around LSU women's basketball's biggest star, Mulkey's refusal to explain combined with her controversial past makes the situation even more suspect.

Angel Reese, left; Kim Mulkey (Photos by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

In this corner is LSU star forward Angel Reese, the “Bayou Barbie,” fresh off winning a national title and waving it in Caitlin Clark’s face before enjoying newfound wealth and fame.

In the other corner is LSU head coach Kim Mulkey, the Louisiana native and Hall of Famer, fresh off signing a $32 million contract after snagging the title in her second season back home.

Who ya got?

I don’t know what Reese did — or failed to do — that’s caused her to miss LSU’s last two games, with no explanation from Mulkey. But it’s kind of like when you roll up and see a family member being physically attacked. You instinctively side with them, no questions asked, though later you might learn they were dead wrong.

Or, like when a friend does a no-show-no-call when you expected them to be somewhere. When you don’t know what’s happening, worrying can take root. You just hope everything’s OK. But at the same time, you know you’ll be livid if they’re fine and don’t have a legitimate excuse.

We expected to see Reese play Monday against Texas Southern and last week against Southeastern Louisiana. We expect her to accompany the team Wednesday when it travels for this weekend’s Cayman Islands Classic  But there’s no telling based on Mulkey’s veiled comments about “locker-room issues” and “no matter what the [name, image and likeness] is, no matter what they do in pros, this is college.”

Gimme Reese. 

Yes, it’s totally possible Reese did something to warrant her de facto suspension, a punishment we might easily accept as reasonable based on the offense. But Mulkey hasn’t offered an explanation. And without sharing one, she doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. She lost that a while ago, trending toward that certain demographic that struggles with social progress and self-confident minorities. Despite working in close proximity to young Black women and their families, she’s sided too often with dark forces like rape culture, homophobes and MAGA nuts. 

Before joining LSU, Mulkey won three national titles in 21 years at Baylor. The football program gained infamy for numerous complaints, including a 2017 Title IX lawsuit that alleged at least 52 rapes by more than 30 players over a four-year span. At least three cases involved allegations of gang rapes, described as a bonding experience for players.

Mulkey said she was “tired of people talking about it” and encouraged fans to punch anyone who won’t send their daughter based on the assaults. “Knock them right in the face,” she said, calling Baylor “the best damn school in America.” 

I don’t think it was the best damn school for Mulkey’s best player, Brittney Griner, who led Baylor to a pair of Final Fours and the national title in 2012, all while hiding her tattoos and sexual orientation at Mulkey’s insistence. The coach has no use for the former player since, declining to protest Griner’s imprisonment in Russia and being called out for lack of support. 

And don’t forget her nonchalance about COVID-19, flinging her “damn mask” at her introductory news conference, refusing to be tested while ill, and urging the NCAA to halt testing during the 2021 Final Four. Based on that warped reasoning (and circumstantial evidence), it makes sense that Mulkey asked Donald Trump to invite her 2019 champs to the White House, though self-respecting teams were opting out or not being invited because he knew they’d opt out.

Add it all up and Mulkey is suspect, less likely to be deemed cool or good people, at least in my book. 

That’s true regardless of what’s happening with Reese, whether the whirlwind since March Madness made her a diva, or whether her shine fostered jealousy within the program. Either way, someone who’s neither a player nor a coach has emerged as a clear wrongdoer — Kia Brooks, mother of LSU guard Flau’jae Johnson. 

While beefing about something with Angel Reese’s mom last week, Brooks committed a foul by slamming Reese’s academics. “You definitely know about grammar errors when your daughter got a 2.0-or-less grade point average,” Brooks posted on Instagram. “… Stop being petty, fake and hateful, and take responsibility for you and your daughter’s actions.”

Reese has been silent except for a request on X (formerly known as Twitter): “Please don’t believe everything you read.”

Mulkey paints her silence as a shield against the prying media. “I’m going to protect my players, always,” she said Monday. “They are more important.”

A better course would be protecting Reese from rumors, speculation and innuendo, especially given the racist trolling she endures as a high-profile Black woman. Mulkey has stocked up this season with a significant transfer (Hailey Van Lith) and two highly touted freshmen (Mikaylah Williams and Aalyah Del Rosario). But Reese is the team’s biggest star and the sport’s most visible player besides Clark. Whatever’s going on, Mulkey isn’t helping the situation by refusing to explain. 

With nothing else to go on, the silence draws more attention on her. 

And that’s not a good look, regardless.

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

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