LSU Hailey van Lith Angel Reese LSU Lady Tigers forward Angel Reese (10) and LSU Lady Tigers guard Hailey Van Lith (11) take questions from the media at MVP Arena, Sunday, March 31, 2024 in Albany, N.Y.

Kim Mulkey’s LSU Tigers are at the epicenter of a needless conflict as they head into the Elite Eight. While all the discussion should be centered on a high-profile National Championship rematch featuring superstar Angel Reese and mega-star Caitlin Clark, a recent Los Angeles Times column took the attention away on Saturday.

Much of the attention before that article dropped centered around a different article, an impending Washington Post profile that Mulkey hyped up with threats of legal action beforehand, creating a huge level of interest. That piece did not bear the fruit that many expected.

The vitriol that some expected to be pushed in that direction was instead redirected to an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times that positioned LSU as America’s “basketball villains.”

Mulkey received a lot of support in the wake of that article. The commentary also had an impact on the players.

LSU’s Hailey van Lith addressed reporters after the article was published. The Louisville transfer spoke candidly and was not afraid to mince words when it came to how the piece made her feel.

“I think there’s a lot of situations that play into it, but I think we do have a lot of Black women on this team. We do have a lot of people that are from different areas, and unfortunately, that bias does exist still today,” van Lith said. “A lot of the people that are making those comments are being racist towards my teammates. I’m in a unique situation where I see it with myself. I’ll talk trash and I’ll get a different reaction than if Angel talks trash.

“I have a duty to my teammates to have their back. Obviously, some of the words that were used in that article were very sad and upsetting. I didn’t want us to read that article before the game, because hearing stuff like that, it’s not right. That type of description of us isn’t always motivating. I think calling us, basically, ‘the dirty debutants?’ That has nothing to do with sports, and that’s not motivating. I wish we hadn’t of read that because I think that can crush your soul. That someone would say that about us, that doesn’t know us.

“In my opinion, 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,” she said. “At the end of the day, I’m rocking with them cause they don’t change who they are.

“So I’ll have their back.”

You can never question the kind of teammate that Hailey van Lith is after these comments. There are people in far more powerful places who aren’t as matter-of-fact as she came off in this interview when it came to defending the women she suits up alongside on the court.

[Michael Merrick]

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022