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Calling LSU women’s basketball athletes “dirty debutantes” is blatant racism. (Op-Ed)

Ben Bolch, a Los Angeles Times staff writer, called the UCLA Bruins “America’s sweethearts” and the LSU Tigers “basketball villains” just before the two teams competed against each other in the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. The article was deemed offensive, and certain phrases were retracted for not meeting editorial standards, but the damage has been done. Bolch’s description of LSU’s athletes as “dirty debutantes” no longer appears in the updated version, but when you Google that phrase, you are met with graphic pornography.

“We do have a lot of Black women on this team, and unfortunately, that bias does exist still today, and a lot of the people that are making those comments are being racist towards my teammates,” Hailey Van Lith told reporters in an interview following the Tigers’ 78-69 win over UCLA. This is collegiate women’s basketball; therefore, the athletes are between the ages of 18 and 21. They are a powerful group of young women who do not deserve to be spoken about in this fashion.

LSU officials were outraged by Bolch’s incendiary question that asked fans “Do you prefer America’s sweethearts or its dirty debutantes? Milk and cookies or Louisiana hot sauce?” This phrasing is completely uncalled for and is rooted in racist rhetoric. It does not matter how well these women play, Bolch only wants to support “pure” and “wholesome” white athletes. Describing the Tigers’ players as “evil” while painting a positive, angelic image of the Bruins shows a clear bias that is not welcome in athletics. Not only is this a racist sentiment towards LSU’s black athletes, but sexist towards both teams.

Van Lith, one of the two white women on LSU’s team, made a stand and accused Bolch of racism. “I’m in a unique situation where I see with myself, I’ll talk trash and I’ll get a different reaction than if Angel [Reese] talks trash. I have a duty to my teammates to have their back. Some of the words that were used in that article were very sad and upsetting,” she said, “’But in my opinion, I know for a fact that people see us differently because we do 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. At the end of the day, I’m rocking with them because they don’t let that change who they are. They stay true to themselves, and so I’ll have their back.”

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