Navigating Bias: Angel Reese and Sha’Carri Richardson’s Resilience in the Face of Double Standards

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LSU Forward Angel Reese (10) reacts during the Fourth Quarter of an Elite Eight round college basketball game against Iowa during the NCAA Tournament, Monday April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

In the unforgiving arena of double standards, Black women athletes like Angel Reese and Sha’Carri Richardson are forced to be more than just competitors. They’re pioneers, shattering glass ceilings in their sports while navigating a media landscape rife with prejudice. Their resilience isn’t a badge of honor, it’s a necessity. By examining their journeys, we’ll not only see how race and gender bias play out in sports media, but also celebrate the unwavering strength and authenticity these remarkable women bring to the game.

Born and raised in Randallstown, Maryland, Reese’s basketball pedigree runs deep. Her mother also played basketball and Reese grew up honing her skills on the court. By high school, she was a national standout, leading her team to championships and earning McDonald’s All-American honors.

Reese’s collegiate career was beyond impressive. She lit the court up at both the University of Maryland and Louisiana State University, where she averaged a double-double as a sophomore and garnered numerous accolades, including All-America honors. Her dominance on the boards and scoring prowess made her a nightmare for opposing teams.

But despite her undeniable success, her participation in the 2023 NCAA women’s championship game exposed how the perception of “trash talk” is skewed when it comes to race and gender. Reese fell under heavy scrutiny after making a “you can’t see me” hand gesture (popularized by professional wrestler John Cena), to Iowa standout, Caitlin Clark. Even though Clark had done the same in a previous game, Reese was slammed with claims of her actions being unsportsmanlike and even referred to as “classless,” according to NPR

But did Clark receive the same backlash? No. Coincidentally, she was even praised by the man who started it all himself– John Cena. “Even if they could see you… they couldn’t guard you! Congrats on the historic performance @CaitlinClark22…” And this wasn’t a first (or even last) for Clark. She’s known to have a reputation for trash-talking during the game. For example, in a game versus South Carolina, Clark is seen waving off players as if she wasn’t worth the energy to defend.

So, what’s the difference between the two players? Angel Reese is Black and Caitlin Clark is white. 

When it came to Reese, Forbes reported that “Barstool’s Dave Portnoy called her a ‘classless piece of sh*t’ and commentator Keith Olbermann called her a ‘f*cking idiot.’”

“All year, I was critiqued for who I was. I don’t fit the narrative, I don’t fit the box that y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year. When other people do it, and y’all don’t say nothing,” Reese said in a press conference following the championship.

“So this is for the girls that look like me. For those that want to speak up for what they believe in. It’s unapologetically you. And that’s what I [did] before tonight. It was bigger than me tonight. And Twitter is going to go into a rage every time.”

While Reese had and still has an obvious understanding of the bias she faces, it doesn’t make it right … especially since she’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last. In the conversation of unapologetic and confident Black women athletes who are shattering glass ceilings and prospering despite what criticism she receives— Sha’Carri (pronounced Shuh-Kerri, don’t forget it)  Richardson has a rightful place in the conversation as well.

In this June 19, 2021 photo, Sha’Carri Richardson celebrates after winning the first heat of the semis finals in women’s 100-meter runat the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. Richardson cannot run in the Olympic 100-meter race after testing positive for a chemical found in marijuana. Richardson, who won the 100 at Olympic trials in 10.86 seconds on June 19, told of her ban Friday, July 2 on the “Today Show.”(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

A track and field star, Richardson electrifies the racing world with both her lightning speed and her vibrant personality. Born in Dallas, Texas her talent emerged early, blossoming into record-breaking performances at the high school and collegiate levels. In 2019, as a freshman at Louisiana State University, she shattered the collegiate 100-meter record, cementing her status as a rising superstar, according to World Athletics.

Richardson’s athletic prowess is indisputable. She boasts a personal best of 10.72 seconds in the 100 meters, ranking her among the fastest women of all time. But her impact extends far beyond the track. Known for her colorful hairstyles, long nails and outspoken personality, she challenges stereotypes and injects a dose of individuality into the often-conservative world of athletics. A modern-day Flo-Jo to the core.

Her journey hasn’t been without hurdles. After a positive marijuana test in 2021, Richardson faced a suspension that sidelined her from the Tokyo Olympics, a heartbreaking setback for the young athlete. However, Richardson’s resilience was on display. She bounced back, using the experience to advocate for changes in anti-doping regulations and mental health awareness in sports as she revealed she was using marijuana to cope with the loss of her biological mother.

The news of her use of marijuana quickly turned those in favor of Richardson against her. Even after taking accountability for her actions and apologizing she faced a lack of empathy as many people criticized her decision further kicking her while she was already down. According to The Guardian, some common discourse included: “Are we supposed to bend the rules because someone has a sob story?” and “What kind of example is she setting as a celebrity?”

“It almost seems like we have to be superheroes,” Richardson told Teen Vogue last year. “It’s just irritating because you take away the abilities, you take away the speed, you take away the talent … and we’re still human.”

But the onslaught didn’t stop there. According to NPR, after Sha’Carri’s suspension, Russian skater Kamila Valieva was cleared to compete in the 2022 olympics despite also having tested positive for a World Anti-Doping Agency banned substance – trimetazidine, which is believed to increase blood efficiency and endurance boosting overall athletic performance, unlike THC. 

Richardson called out the double-standard in a since deleted post via X (formerly Twitter), “Can we get a solid answer on the difference of her situation and mine? My mother died and I can’t run and was also favored to place top 3,”she wrote. “The only difference I see is I’m a Black young lady.”

While Bleacher Report considered Richardson’s exclusion a “fall from grace,” she wasn’t falling for long. In 2023, Richardson reclaimed her dominance, becoming the World Champion in the 100 meters. This victory, achieved with her signature flair, solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with on the track. As Sha’Carri Richardson continues to blaze a trail, one can’t help but be excited to see what the future holds for this captivating athlete.

But despite the success of these young women, their stories shed light on the very ugly struggle of Black women and especially Black women in sports. Sha’Carri said it best in her interview with Teen Vogue, “If you take away the ‘Black’ in front of the ‘woman’ and another woman reacts the same way, it’s not considered ‘sassy,’…[or] ‘aggressive,’”

Being confident and sure of yourself shouldn’t be a crime for Black women athletes, but for some reason– it’s “offensive,” “disrespectful” and “classless” when they flex their capabilities. In the critically-acclaimed romance movie, Love & Basketball, the character Monica (played by Sanaa Lathan) told her love interest who had accused her of having a bad attitude when it came to the way she played basketball, “Please, you jump in some guy’s face, talk smack and you get a pat on your a*s.  But because I’m a female, I get told to calm down and act like a ‘lady.’” 24 years ago and Monica’s words still speak to the experience of many Black women athletes.

From Serena Williams to Coco Gauff, Brittney Griner to Angel Reese– Black women have the right to be loud and proud without thoughtless attacks on their behavior due to outdated stereotypes.

The bias against Black women athletes like Angel Reese and Sha’Carri Richardson is undeniable. Their talent is celebrated, but their personalities and celebrations are deemed “aggressive” or “classless” – labels never thrown at their white counterparts. This double standard has to end.

We can fight back. Share their stories online, discuss them with others and support the brands they represent. Call out biased commentary, demand equal representation in sports media and back organizations promoting diversity in sports. Let us be clear: confidence is a strength, not a flaw. Together, we can create a world where Black women athletes are celebrated for their full selves, both on and off the court.

The post Navigating Bias: Angel Reese and Sha’Carri Richardson’s Resilience in the Face of Double Standards appeared first on American Urban Radio Networks.

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