L.A. Times Writer Is Sorry for Calling LSU ‘Dirty Debutantes’

LSU v Iowa
Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images

This week, the women’s NCAA tournament kicked into high gear. On Saturday, the Louisiana State University Tigers and their star player, Angel Reese, beat UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen round. Two days later, LSU was booted from the tournament by the Iowa Hawkeyes and their history-making superstar, Caitlin Clark, in an exciting rematch of last year’s finals. But while the competition ramped up, a much less pleasant saga was playing out in the press, where a column in the Los Angeles Times put a spotlight on the scrutiny and prejudice leveled at female athletes.

On Friday, L.A. Times staff writer Ben Bolch published a column likening the impending UCLA-LSU face-off to “good versus evil.” Though Bolch criticized LSU coach Kim Mulkey’s response to a long-anticipated Washington Post report on her controversial coaching career, he spent most of the piece praising UCLA’s “class” while accusing LSU of being “hellbent on dividing” women’s basketball. He described UCLA as “milk and cookies” and “America’s sweethearts,” while dubbing LSU’s predominantly Black women’s team “basketball villains,” “Louisiana hot sauce,” and “dirty debutantes.”

The LSU players are no strangers to sexist and racist criticism. Last year, Reese was accused of being disrespectful and “classless” after making John Cena’s “you can’t see me” hand gesture toward Clark during the championships — even though Clark had done the exact same gesture in a previous game to the delight of sports fans everywhere. Bolch deployed similar racially coded commentary about Reese’s behavior, claiming she “taunted” Clark by “mocking” her own move. He also took issue with a recent game in which Reese waved good-bye to a player who’d just been disqualified after five fouls. (Bolch’s objection: The fouled-out player was “crying.”) Bolch spoke with two UCLA players for his piece, who apparently “disputed the notion that Reese lacked class” and called her “really nice off the court.”

UCLA isn’t the only one objecting. The L.A. Times column immediately faced backlash, including from Hailey Van Lith, a white LSU player who called the piece racist in a post-game interview Saturday night. In a press conference after Saturday’s game, Mulkey fiercely condemned the language Bolch used against the young women on both teams.

“It was so sexist, and they don’t even know it,” Mulkey said of the column. “How dare people attack kids like that.” She urged the room to Google “dirty debutantes” — a search that yields mostly porn — and lashed out at Bolch for referring to UCLA as “milk and cookies.” “I’m in the last third of my career, but I’m not gonna let sexism continue,” she continued. “I can’t sit up here as a mother and a grandmother and a leader of young people and allow somebody to say that. I come from a different generation, but I know sexism when I see it and I read it. That was awful.”

The L.A. Times removed some of the most offensive language in Bolch’s column, including the “dirty debutantes” and “milk and cookies” references. The publication also added an editor’s note stating that “the original version of this commentary did not meet Times editorial standards” and apologizing “to the LSU basketball program and to our readers.” On Monday, Bolch posted an apology on X that was also added to the L.A. Times page. “Our society has had to deal with so many layers of misogyny, racism and negativity that I can now see why the words I used were wrong,” he wrote. “It was not my intent to be hurtful, but I now understand that I terribly missed the mark.”

L.A. Times Writer Sorry for Calling LSU ‘Dirty Debutantes’