After Louisiana State University's women's basketball forward Angel Reese made a gesture at opponent Caitlin Clark during the NCAA championship game Sunday, onlookers were quick to criticize her behavior as "classless."
Soon, however, those critics were being given their own label on social media: hypocrites.
During the second half of the final game, Reese, who helped lead her team to victory, waved her hand in front of her face and pointed to her ring finger, implying that her team would win the game and the NCAA women’s basketball title. LSU defeated Iowa 101-85.
The gesture trended on Twitter and buzzed across social media — a breakout moment during the final game in a season of record-breaking audiences for the NCAA women’s basketball.
The exchange happened between two excelling players this season; Reese was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, and Clark was named Naismith Player of the Year. But many couldn't help but point out the lack of outrage when Clark, who is white, made the same gesture at Reese, who is Black, during a previous game.
Politics and sports commentator Keith Olbermann tweeted that Reese was being an "idiot." Others tweeted that Reese's move was "classless." In fact, the word "classless" began trending on Twitter on Sunday after Reese made the gesture.
On social media, many asked those criticizing Reese if they had done the same with Clark, who made the same gesture during the Elite Eight matchup against Louisville.
"If you didn’t say it was classless when Caitlin Clark did it to her opponents then don’t say it about Angel Reese either," tweeted former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III.
In a back-and-forth, Griffin followed up that he had watched both games and saw no backlash to Clark's hand wave.
"You had no problem with any of that," Griffin wrote of Clark's gesture. "When you celebrate, your opponent will come back and steal your celebration and make sure you see it. If you dish it out, you gotta be able to take it."
NBA star and Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James responded to a tweet defending Reese, writing, "FACTS!!!! Love to see it."
Former NBA star and LSU alum Shaquille O’Neal tweeted in response to Olbermann's post, telling him to shut up and "leave angel reese alone."
Journalist Victoria Brownworth tweeted that the "racist attacks on Angel Reese" were raising her blood pressure.
"A college kid and her team won a fabulous game against a strong competitor and y’all can’t let LSU have the joy. What is wrong with you?" she wrote.
In a post-game press conference, Reese said she has been criticized for being herself all year long.
“I don’t fit in a box that y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. But when other people do it, y’all say nothing. So this was for the girls that look like me, that’s going to speak up on what they believe in," she said. "It’s unapologetically you.”
Clark, for her part, had nothing but praise for her opponents following the game.
"All you can do is hold your head high, be proud of what you did. All the credit in the world to LSU. They were tremendous,” Clark said.
Neither LSU nor Iowa immediately responded to a request for comment about the social media response to Reese's gesture.
The women's championship was not just a buzz because of the moment between Reese and Clark, but has been a watershed season for women's collegiate basketball's popularity. The NCAA women's basketball Final Four was the most-watched in the event's history.
Iowa's matchup against South Carolina was watched by an average of 5.5. million people and peaked at 6.6, according to The Washington Post. LSU's defeat of Virginia Tech was watched by an average of 3.4 million people and peaked at 5 million.
Those averages collectively account for a 66% increase over last year, the Post reported.