Frank Isola Credit: Around the Horn on ESPN

Chicago Sky rookie forward Angel Reese has said she is OK with being the “bad guy” in the WNBA, but after a flagrant foul on fellow rookie Caitlin Clark over the weekend, Reese bristled at questions from reporters about the play.

On ESPN’s Around the Horn on Monday, sports reporter Frank Isola questioned whether Reese truly was comfortable being a villain after all.

Isola pointed out that the controversial flagrant call was clearly correct, given Reese struck Clark’s face while attempting to block the shot. Yet Reese claimed Clark was getting a favorable whistle and pushed back on reporters for asking about the play.

“She also got a little combative with the question,” Isola said. “Well, hang on, you said you wanted to be the villain. Let’s remember, the last time these teams met, Clark was on the receiving end of a dead ball flagrant foul, and you stood up and clapped. So reporters are obviously going to ask you the question.”

In the heat of the moment postgame, Reese was insistent to one reporter that the block was a “basketball play” and then told another reporter she knew the clip of her postgame press conference would be played at least 20 times before the end of the weekend. After her comment about Clark getting a “special whistle,” Reese later said the matchup between the two NCAA rivals was overhyped.

Isola was correct in his commentary that Reese did not embrace the off-court drama or intrigue much this time around.

However, Reese’s previous quotes demanding credit for helping draw attention around the WNBA came during a practice. There is a difference between clear-headed answers on an off day versus what is said right after an intense, competitive game.

Isola’s broader point is important, though.

For better or worse, the discussion around this WNBA season has centered on topics like fairness, history and physicality. Any player claiming to embrace the “bad guy” role within that is asking for the narrative to be built around them as instigators. Just ask Draymond Green or Richard Sherman.

There’s nothing wrong with Reese backing off the villain mantle. The rookie has also opened up about how the toxic commentary around her at LSU wore on her mentally and emotionally.

But in a world where Reese is asking to be covered more fairly and sports reporters are attempting to cover the broader cultural context around Clark, the characters and the story matter. If the goal is to be understood and covered fairly, Reese will struggle to achieve that goal if she constantly embraces or sheds the “bad guy” character.

[Around the Horn]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.