LSU’s Hailey Van Lith defends teammates, calls LA Times column ‘racist’ after ‘dirty debutantes’ jab

March 31, 2024

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LSU guard Hailey Van Lith came to the defense of her team on Sunday after a Los Angeles Times column described the Tigers women’s basketball team as “dirty debutantes,” saying that perception was “racist.”

Before the Tigers faced UCLA on Saturday for their Sweet 16 matchup – they won 78-69 with Flau’Jae Johnson leading the way with 24 points – the column was published by the L.A. Times. 

Van Lith, who is White, regrets reading the column because it “can crush your soul a little bit.” However, she had her teammates’ backs when discussing it ahead of the Tigers’ Elite Eight game against Iowa on Monday night.  

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Hailey Van Lith dribbles

LSU’s Hailey Van Lith is shown during the game against Tennessee on February 25, 2024, at Food City Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“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,” Van Lith said, per ESPN. “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.”

“Calling us the ‘dirty debutantes,’ that has nothing to do with sports. That’s not motivating.”

The L.A. Times removed the “dirty debutantes” language from the column later on Saturday, saying in a statement, per ESPN, that “it did not meet Times editorial standards.”

LSU’S KIM MULKEY SHREDS LA TIMES OVER COLUMN DESCRIBING PLAYERS AS ‘DIRTY DEBUTANTES’

“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,” Van Lith continued. “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.”

Van Lith added that her time at Louisville, where she spent her first three seasons of college basketball, and in high school saw the same criticism – a double standard. 

Hailey Van Lith dribbles

LSU’s Hailey Van Lith (11) is shown during the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game against South Carolina on March 10, 2024, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. (John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“A lot of the times, I’m one of the only White people on the team, and so I do see things from a different perspective,” she said. “I think a lot of people who live in communities that everyone is like them, that’s when they tend to think, ‘Oh, racism doesn’t exist today.’ But I have seen it and I experienced it, and I watch it happen to my teammates. I watch it happen to my friends.”

Van Lith is only the latest to comment publicly about the column, as head coach Kim Mulkey ripped it, saying it was “sexist” and “wrong.”

“You can criticize coaches all you want,” she said, per ESPN. “That’s our business. You can come at us and say, ‘You’re the worst coach in America. I hate you, I hate everything about you.’ We expect that. It comes with the territory.”

“But the one thing I’m not going to let you do, I’m not going to let you attack young people, and there were some things in this commentary that you should be offended by as women. It was so sexist. It was good versus evil in that game today. Evil? Called us dirty debutantes? Are you kidding me?

“I can’t sit up here as a mother and a grandmother and a leader of young people and allow somebody to say that. Because guys, that’s wrong. I know sexism when I see it and I read it. That was awful.”

LSU guard Hailey Van Lith is shown during the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game against South Carolina on March 10, 2024, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. (John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Lady Tigers star Angel Reese also defended her head coach, saying that she and her teammates are “good villains” who all want to help women’s basketball grow. 

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“That’s what we’re worried about,” Reese said. “Just being able to have teammates that have my back, have teammates, have coaches just have each other’s back this whole time. I don’t care what the outside thinks. I know what’s going on in that locker room.”

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