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Hailey Van Lith calls out ‘racist’ criticism of LSU teammates


Hailey Van Lith calls out ‘racist’ criticism of LSU teammates

march madness 2024

ALBANY — One image from last year’s national title game surfaces before all others: Angel Reese taunting Caitlin Clark, flashing John Cena’s “You can’t see me” wave in front of her face.

One calendar year has largely blurred the context, of Clark using the gesture one week earlier toward Louisville, upon clinching Iowa’s first Final Four berth in 30 years.

Then-Louisville star Hailey Van Lith defended both players’ use of the insult.

You win, you choose your victory cigar.

LSU’s Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith address reporters during their press conference Sunday ahead of an Elite Eight matchup against Iowa. USA TODAY NETWORK

“It’s our personalities,” said Van Lith, now a guard at LSU. “It’s what makes the game fun for us.”

Like Reese, Van Lith enjoys the view from the Death Star.

She expects the majority of fans will be in Iowa’s corner Monday night.

Her only issue with it comes from the perceived root cause of why so many critics — most recently, an LA Times column, which described the Tigers as “evil” and “dirty debutantes” — come at the champs.

“We do have a lot of black women on this team [and] unfortunately that bias does still exist today,” Van Lith said Sunday. “A lot of the people making those comments are being racist towards my teammates. I’m in a unique situation, I’ll talk trash and I’ll get a different reaction than if Angel talks trash. … Some of the words that were used in that article were very sad and upsetting and I didn’t want us to read the article before the [Sweet 16] because hearing stuff like that is not right. … Calling us, the ‘dirty debutantes,’ that has nothing to do with sports.

“I wish we hadn’t read that because I think that can crush your soul a little bit, that someone would ever say that about us that doesn’t know us. I know for a fact that people see us differently because we have a lot of black women on our team who have an attitude and like to talk trash and people feel a way about it, but at the end of the day, I’m rocking with them because they don’t let that change who they are.”

Most members of LSU can laugh about the last time they saw Clark.

Hailey Van Lith dribbles the ball during LSU’s Sweet 16 game against UCLA on Saturday. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Van Lith — who led Louisville to the 2022 Final Four — is left with the memory of the Iowa star becoming a household name, following a 41-point triple-double in the Elite Eight.

“I remember getting my butt kicked by Caitlin,” Van Lith said.

One week later, Van Lith was one of 9.9 million viewers absorbed by the national title game.

Hailey Van Lith and LSU can advance to the Final Four on Monday. Getty Images

Then, she became the most coveted player in the transfer portal, drawn to the team that took down Clark.

“I remember just the excitement of the game and the emotions that you could feel through the TV, and you just felt like it was a huge moment for women’s basketball,” Van Lith said. “The emotions I felt in that moment definitely played a part in who I chose to reach out to when I was in the portal. I was like, ‘I want to play on that team.’ The trash-talking and how coach [Kim] Mulkey was coaching with such emotion, I think all those things combined, I felt I related to that. That seemed like me.”

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