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'He brings that punch': Why the Clippers' Norman Powell could win sixth-man award

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'He brings that punch': Why the Clippers' Norman Powell could win sixth-man award

Norman Powell leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin when he was asked to name the Clippers who have won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

“Lou Will, Montrezl, JCrawford,” Powell said. “Am I missing somebody else?”

He paused for about 10 seconds to gather his thoughts, wanting to make sure he hadn’t left anyone out.

“Lou Will, JCrawford, Montrezl,” Powell repeated. “Go through the years. Go through the years.”

Powell squinted his eyes and shook his head, his mind still racing.

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The Clippers have five Sixth Man of the Year Award trophies they can boast about, Powell was told.

He was reminded that Jamal Crawford won two of his three awards with the Clippers, in 2013-14 and 2015-16; Lou Williams won two of his three awards with the Clippers, in 2017-18 and 2018-19; and Harrell won his award with the Clippers in 2019-20.

Powell laughed.

“Twice, I mean, they won,” he said. “That’s crazy, though, twice for Lou Will and JCraw.”

Powell is the sixth-man extraordinaire for the Clippers and has a very good chance of winning the award this season and joining some illustrious company.

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Clippers guard Norman Powell dunks over Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell during a game Jan. 7 at Crypto.com Arena.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“I think it would be amazing. It would be a lot for me,” he said. “It would be recognition for the importance for the team and being able to step up and help the team win and just a testament to all my hard work throughout the years. I feel like I’ve always been an underdog, having to earn my stripes and my spot. Even when I do really well one season, the next season it’s not automatically given. I’ve got to work to get it and prove myself.

“So, I think that would be an accolade that speaks to the grind and the sacrifice of giving myself up for the team. Even though I see myself as a starter and an impact player that can contribute in a starting role. But I think the biggest thing is sacrificing and giving yourself up and still being able to help the team win.”

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The competition for the prestigious honor is stiff because of the high level of play off the bench from Sacramento’s Malik Monk, Cleveland’s Caris LeVert, Minnesota’s Naz Reid, Dallas’ Tim Hardaway Jr., Milwaukee’s Bobby Portis Jr. and Utah’s Jordan Clarkson.

Powell is more than holding his own as one of the league’s key reserves for his team.

Here’s a look at some of his stat lines:

• Third-highest scorer off the bench (13.8) and fourth on the Clippers.

• Second-highest field-goal percentage (48.9%) among bench players with a minimum of eight field-goal attempts.

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• Second-highest three-point percentage (43.5%) among bench players with a minimum of two three-point attempts per game and seventh in the NBA.

• Fourth-most minutes (25.8) among bench players.

• Seventh highest plus-minus (+2.7) among bench players.

• Third-highest offensive rating (118.1) among bench players.

• Ninth-highest net rating (5.1) among bench players.

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• Ninth-highest effective field-goal percentage (59.8%) among bench players.

• Seventh-highest true shooting percentage (62.9) among bench players.

“Norman Powell is doing great, averaging about 14 points a game,” said Crawford, who works as an NBA analyst for TNT and NBA TV, in an interview with The Times. “And he’s on one of the best teams in the league. And he’s doing it when they need him to do it. We know the stars are going to be stars, but they got to have that punch. His punch, when he brings that punch, it can get everybody else on track.”

Crawford has a unique perspective on what it takes to be a successful sixth man because he’s tied with Williams for the most in league history.

Crawford won two while playing alongside Clippers stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

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Yet Crawford knew his value to the team was high.

“It’s a balance, right, because you got to believe in something bigger than yourself on being on a good team,” Crawford said. “And then you also have to use that confidence in a different way to say, ‘You know what? They started the show, but Superman is coming in.’ You come to save the day. You got to hype yourself up to walk around the stars’ confidence. So, it’s a balance of humility and being humbled but then knowing I’m a bad boy whether I start or come off the bench.”

Powell walks that same tightrope with current Clippers stars.

He’s playing alongside four likely future Hall of Famers in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Even with that, the 6-foot-3 Powell knows his role is important to the team and that foursome.

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“Yeah, definitely. I think the roles change, Powell said. “I think especially with this team and how dynamic we are, especially with the star power that we have — four Hall of Famers, four guys who have had teams built around them. It’s me trying to earn my way and battle and fight and make it tough for those guys and show that I’m here as well.

Clippers guard Norman Powell, center, blocks a shot by Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt during a game Jan. 23.

Clippers guard Norman Powell, center, blocks a shot by Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt during a game Jan. 23.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“They have the lifelong career of accolades and All-Star games and I still see myself at that level that I can be given the opportunity. So it’s balancing yourself out, knowing that you’re as good as these guys. You might not have the notoriety, but the skillset, the determination, the work ethic is right at the top with them. But balancing it out and knowing that they are the guys that we are going to play through. They are the guys we are built around and it’s my job to help them, making it easier on them and give them the best opportunity for me to be successful as well.”

The idea that the Clippers have garnered more sixth-man awards than any other NBA team made Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers smile with pride.

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Rivers was the coach of the Clippers when Crawford, Williams and Harrell were the winners, and he sees Powell in the same vein.

“He is just a flamethrower,” Rivers said. “He has great confidence. All three of those guys — Jamal, Lou, Norman — could have easily started on most teams and they accepted like, ‘I’ll be the guy coming off the bench.’ That’s a place they mentally have to go to. So, yeah, the Clippers have another great sixth man in Norman.”

In a high-stakes game at Minnesota earlier this month, Powell showed his worth.

Clippers stars Paul George and James Harden struggled during the game. George was five-for-15 shooting from the field with 15 points while Harden missed all 10 of his shots and scored just four points.

Powell stepped into that void, playing efficient basketball in scoring 24 points on nine-for-13 shooting that included six of eight from three-point range.

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Clippers guard Norman Powell, left, steals the ball from Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado during a game Feb. 7.

Clippers guard Norman Powell, left, steals the ball from Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado during a game Feb. 7.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

He missed Sunday night’s game against Atlanta because of a left lower leg contusion. The Clippers missed Powell’s scoring and energy.

“The biggest thing about being a good sixth man is sacrifice and then, two, being able to watch the game and put your input on there and what the team is needing and what the game flow is calling, asking for, what the team is lacking,” Powell said. “Every game is going to be different. It might not be scoring. It might be defensive rebounding. It might be getting defensive stops. It might be communicating.

“It might not be your night, in terms of putting up stats, but you’re helping the guys on the floor with what you see in that sixth-man role coming off the bench. It could be how the refs are calling [the game], what we’re lacking offensively, defensively and building that confidence. I think that’s what the sixth-man role is, that next player up that helps the team no matter what’s being asked of him.”

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Stopping Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving at forefront of Clippers' Game 2 strategy

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Stopping Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving at forefront of Clippers' Game 2 strategy

The final stats from Dallas’ dynamic backcourt of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving from Game 1 of the playoffs Sunday told one story of how they performed at a high level with a combined 64 points, but the defense the Clippers played against the sensational pair told a story of stick-to-itiveness that resulted in the most important thing:

Winning.

And because of Terance Mann and Amir Coffey, who started in place of Kawhi Leonard (inflammation in his right knee), the Clippers took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series because those two followed the defensive game plan all the while knowing that Doncic and Irving could erupt at any time.

Doncic finished with 33 points, but he was 11 for 26 from the field and four for 12 from three-point range. Irving finished with 31 points on 10-for-18 shooting that included him going three for six from three-point range.

The task now is to try to slow down Doncic and Irving again in Game 2 on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena.

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“It’s very challenging,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said before his team’s practice Monday. “You got two of the best scorers in the league on the same team. So, when they’re both on the court at the same time, it’s kind of hard to double-team one guy and leave the other guy. So, you got to pick your poison. I thought for the most part our guys did a good job with executing the defensive plan. We still had I think 26 points that we gave up on game-plan mistakes, which is going to happen throughout the course of a game. But I thought we did it hard, and I thought we tried to do it our best. We just made some mistakes and so we got to be better with that.”

The Clippers were at their best defending Doncic and Irving in the first half.

Doncic was four for 13 in the first half, one for seven from three-point range and scored just 11 points.

Irving was one for six in the first half, missed all three of his three-pointers and had 6 points.

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But Irving heated up in the third quarter, scoring 20 points on 8-for-8 shooting.

Doncic got going in the fourth, scoring 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting.

“They’re going to do whatever they feel like doing,” Mann said. “They both play at their own speed, at their own pace. So just like you said, just play tough, be aggressive and try to keep them in front as best you can.”

Irving joked after Sunday’s game that Lue gave Mann and Coffey cues on how to defend the point guard.

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Lue and Irving won an NBA title with Cleveland in 2015-16, making the two familiar with each other.

“You going to get a cue and then he’s going to do something else,” Mann said. “So, he’s a smart player and very good player, so I’m sure he picked up on that and started doing the counter.”

“Kyrie is a player that can score at all three levels,” Coffey said. “He could go left, he could go right. So, even with his tendencies, it kind of seems he’s got a counter to everything. So, like I said, just us trying to make it extremely tough for him. Throw some different coverages at him and just make it tough and make ‘em work for every basket.”

Coffey may get the job again and may start again with the uncertainty Leonard will play in the second game.

The plan was for Leonard to practice Monday, but Lue said they were “not doing contact.”

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“He’s going to go through practice today and we’ll see,” Lue said.

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Mark Clattenburg: The celebrity referee turned PGMOL agitator… via Gladiators

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Mark Clattenburg: The celebrity referee turned PGMOL agitator… via Gladiators

This is an updated version of an article first published on March 8.

It is two and a half years since Mark Clattenburg had his autobiography, Whistle Blower, to plug. No prisoners were taken in the book’s content or the promotional work ahead of its release.

Graham Poll, Martin Atkinson and David Elleray were all among the former colleagues Clattenburg swung for in caustic appraisals designed to settle old scores. And as for Mike Riley, his old boss at Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body responsible for overseeing referees? “A boring f**ker,” was the succinct description.

Less spiteful were the words chosen for Howard Webb, a man he had known for over two decades, but Clattenburg still made it clear this was a fractured relationship he had little wish to mend.

“When Howard doesn’t need you, he doesn’t speak,” Clattenburg told The Athletic in 2021, raking up a night at Euro 2012 when Webb attended a post-match party without telling his fellow Englishman. “He’s very unique in this. Everyone sees Howard as a nice guy and he is. I would never really criticise him as a person, he’s just someone I won’t engage with in the future because I don’t need Howard Webb, the same as he doesn’t need me.”

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It is a quote that has not aged well.

A return to the Premier League as Nottingham Forest’s refereeing analyst meant Clattenburg needed the ear of Webb, who replaced Riley as the head of PGMOL in December 2022. It is among Clattenburg’s duties to liaise with Webb, to be the conduit for a club who have felt aggrieved at decisions all season.

Ever since Clattenburg’s appointment two months ago, he and Webb have been in regular contact: the pair sat together at Forest’s FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Manchester United on February 28 in seats allocated by the home club.


Howard Webb and Mark Clattenburg watch Nottingham Forest against Manchester United (Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

But the relationship is already being severely tested.

On Sunday, after a controversial 2-0 defeat at Everton in which they were denied three possible penalties, Forest took their refereeing complaints to a new level when they alleged, in a post on X, that they had warned PGMOL not to appoint Stuart Attwell to VAR duties because he was a Luton fan.

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The Athletic reported that Clattenburg did have a conversation with Webb on Friday, 48 hours before the game, but had not asked for him to be removed from VAR duties at Goodison Park.

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In his column for MailOnline published on Sunday evening, however, Clattenburg did savage his former employers, saying they should have made “smarter appointments” and decrying Attwell and on-field referee Anthony Taylor for making a “hat-trick of howlers”.

That, however, was not the first time that Clattenburg has turned attack dog since his return to English football.

A controversial ending to Liverpool’s 1-0 win at the City Ground on March 2, where referee Paul Tierney incorrectly awarded the visiting side an uncontested drop ball, saw Clattenburg put up for media duties by Nottingham Forest.

“I haven’t spoken to the referee, I’ll leave that to the club,” he said. Yet it had not been for the want of trying. “I went to go into the referee’s dressing room (after the game) but he wouldn’t allow it.”

PGMOL did not dispute that. Rules are in place that stipulate only managers and select coaching staff, listed on the official team sheets, can approach officials after a game and, even then, it is up to the referee who enters their dressing room.

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Clattenburg was denied an audience with Tierney and had been expecting events to play out differently. Webb had raised no objection to Clattenburg seeing referees post-match in a meeting the men held shortly after his arrival at Forest. It is not unusual for an analyst to accompany a manager into such a meeting and present video evidence but, importantly, as long as he is an accredited figure listed on the team sheet.

It became the sideshow that made more headlines than Darwin Nunez’s 99th-minute winner. Forest had been on the end of another refereeing mistake, one that gave Liverpool the chance to attack at the other end (albeit almost two minutes later), and it was Clattenburg’s job to tell the world about it.

Forest say they appointed Clattenburg to try and create a positive relationship with PGMOL, the body they have addressed three letters of complaint to already this season. Clattenburg is there to create direct links of discourse, they claim.

Yet PGMOL maintain that all clubs already have that option open to them. Webb has made a point of being accessible to all Premier League managers and captains since taking control of the organisation 15 months ago, fielding calls and explaining the good and bad decisions his referees have reached. They might not like what he has to say, but accountability is the broad aim.

“Clubs are aware that Howard Webb and his colleagues are open to calls at any point,” said Tony Scholes, the Premier League’s chief football officer, in February.

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The question now is whether Clattenburg is the right man to try and facilitate better relations.


Clattenburg, in his own words, started his working life as a “daft electrician from Newcastle”.

Long before he was made the Premier League’s youngest referee aged 29, he had run the lines as an assistant in the Northern League before the same grassroots level presented a platform for him to take centre stage. Clattenburg, with a name not easy to forget, earned a reputation as one of the brightest young officials climbing the ladder. At 25, he had reached the EFL, four years before he was plucked out by Keith Hackett to reach the highest level.

Clattenburg’s ability as an elite referee was rarely in question. Along with Webb, who beat him to the Premier League by 12 months, Clattenburg was as good as it got in English football.

“He was an outstanding referee,” former Premier League official Mark Halsey tells The Athletic. “He was a natural, not manufactured. His communication skills were second to none.

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“Mark was exceptional, like Howard was. And he was a perfectionist. We worked together and roomed together many times. He’d analyse every game and look at what he could and should’ve done differently. He’d beat himself up if he got a decision wrong.”

But a divisive figure? “He didn’t suffer fools,” adds Halsey. “Mark was Mark. I wouldn’t question his character. He was as honest as the day is long. He would tell you as it was and some people didn’t like that. It’s how I would want people to be. He would never go behind someone’s back like some did when we were refereeing.”

UEFA recognition followed Clattenburg’s impressive rise up the Premier League ranks, culminating at his high-water mark as an official in 2016 when he oversaw both the Champions League final and the final of Euro 2016.


Mark Clattenburg in the 2016 Champions League final – a career highlight (Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP via Getty Images)

That Clattenburg has tattoos to mark both showpiece occasions, though, helps paint a picture of the image-conscious figure that became so divisive during his time in the Premier League.

Clattenburg was more like a footballer than a referee. He made headlines for owning a Porsche Boxster that was vandalised outside his home in Newcastle and a black BMW X5 that carried the personalised number plate C19TTS (Clatts).

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Poll would report Clattenburg to PGMOL bosses after turning up for one game carrying a man bag. A separate incident in 2014, when Clattenburg used his own transport to go straight from West Bromwich Albion’s home game against Crystal Palace to an Ed Sheeran concert in Newcastle, brought a reprimand as all Premier League officials are made to travel to and from games together.

Then there were the hair-loss adverts that Clattenburg continues to promote. One video, posted on his Instagram account before Christmas, concluded with him spraying a product from a range positioned in front of the camera. “Hair loss is a worry and make no excuses, I do what I can to keep it,” he says.

It has grown hard to know how seriously to take Clattenburg since his exit from the Premier League in 2017. In the hours that followed Forest’s galling loss to Liverpool, where he was explaining the club’s grievances to media outlets in the mixed zone, he could also be found reprimanding Viper for pinning down a contestant on the BBC show Gladiators.

“This is a formal warning,” said Clattenburg, who serves as the referee on the programme, which was revived earlier this year. “I told you in the locker room, no holding.” The pivot between family entertainment and the Premier League is an awkward one.


Mark Clattenburg in his new role on BBC’s Gladiators (BBC)

As is the relationship between Clattenburg and Webb. It began in the late 1990s when they met during fitness testing at Lilleshall before, according to Webb, becoming “quite friendly” as they climbed the refereeing ladder.

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Webb was there to toast his colleague’s success, too. Clattenburg’s first Premier League game, a 3-1 win for Everton away to Crystal Palace in 2004, was followed by a flight back to Newcastle, where he was joined for “a night on the lash” with Webb. In his own autobiography, The Man in the Middle, Webb says Clattenburg thanked his colleague for “getting him through (that first game) unscathed”.

The falling out at Euro 2012, where Clattenburg was part of Webb’s support team in Poland and Ukraine, has clearly rankled, but a call from one to the other in 2017 was hugely significant. Webb’s exit from the head of refereeing in Saudi Arabia had created a vacancy and Clattenburg, increasingly disillusioned with PGMOL, was encouraged by his former colleague to take up the opportunity. Clattenburg’s salary would be £525,000 a year tax-free, a huge climb on his basic annual Premier League wage of £100,000.

It marked the start of a well-paid tour of the world. Eighteen months in Saudi Arabia were followed by spells overseeing refereeing in China, Egypt and Greece, where he became personally known to Nottingham Forest and Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis in an unforgiving and hostile environment for referees. Marinakis has previously accused Greek referees of being “rigged”, while Olympiacos vice-president, Kostas Karapapas, threw a black mini-skirt at Takis Baltakos, president of the Greek football federation, last season.


Clattenburg’s return to England with Forest — the first appointment of its kind in English football — raised eyebrows throughout English football.

Many Premier League clubs were sceptical of the value he would bring, instead echoing the feelings expressed by Gary O’Neil, whose Wolverhampton Wanderers side have suffered from a number of high-profile errors this season.

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“I’m fine with our relationship with the PGMOL,” he said. “They’re always very clear and honest with me. They are always open to communicating after games. So no, I don’t feel the need for it (a Clattenburg equivalent) here.”

The referees themselves are said to be nonplussed yet relaxed by Clattenburg’s appointment. They know they will be subject to one of Clattenburg’s pre-match reports before they take charge of a Forest match.

Webb has yet to publicly comment on Clattenburg’s return, but plenty of others have.

“I’m disappointed with Nottingham Forest,” said Gary Neville. “It’s as if, ‘Look at all of this, woe is me’. I get it, some teams feel as though they’ve been hard done to, some teams feel they’ve had bad decisions against them, but to employ an ex-referee to tell you why you’re having decisions against you. For me, I think it’s a step too far.”

Neville went further himself on Sunday, saying that Clattenburg should quit his role at Forest in the wake of their allegations on X.

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“Mark Clattenberg must resign,” said Neville. “If he saw those words go out (questioning) the integrity of a referee and claims someone is a cheat for supporting another club, then he’s supporting what is being said. He would lose all credibility with referees in the game. He should stand down and distance himself from that statement.”


Evangelos Marinakis shows his anger at the end of Forest’s defeat to Liverpool (Jon Hobley | MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

But while Clattenburg’s work with Forest is considered unusual, or even ill-advised, in England, in Europe such an arrangement is deemed far more commonplace.

Former Serie A referee Gianpaolo Calvarese was hired by Jose Mourinho, not someone traditionally sympathetic to officialdom, when in charge of Roma, while Carlos Megia Davila has been on Real Madrid’s payroll since 2009.

It is also a common practice in rugby union, where head coaches recruit former officials to backroom teams. Steve Lander, formerly an international referee, was an advisor to England when they won the World Cup in 2003.

“Why can’t Mark have a role at Nottingham Forest?,” asks Halsey, an ally of Clattenburg’s. “He’s been out of the Premier League for a number of years. Why can’t he be that liaison between a club and PGMOL, stopping the managers and owners from getting into trouble?

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“It can only help relationships. Forest have taken the initiative and employed a former referee as a consultant. Mark is ideal to do that.”

Either way, just as when he was refereeing himself, Clattenburg has found himself in the eye of a storm in the Premier League. With Forest’s relegation battle only likely to become more fraught in the weeks ahead, things are unlikely to settle down.

(Top photo: Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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WNBA star Angel Reese: 'Protect young women in sports'

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WNBA star Angel Reese: 'Protect young women in sports'

Angel Reese, the former LSU national champion who was a top selection in the WNBA Draft last week, put out a simple post about women in sports on Monday.

The new Chicago Sky star urged followers and anyone who read her posts on X to “protect young women in sports!!!”

Angel Reese smiles during the 2024 WNBA Draft on April 14, 2025 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, New York. (Melanie Fidler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Reese did not explain further, but the post reached more than 1.4 million impressions by the afternoon.

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The post from Reese came days after the Biden administration unveiled new rules aimed at safeguarding LGBTQ+ students and changing the ways in which sexual harassment and assault claims are adjudicated on campus. However, missing from the new rule was a policy forbidding schools from enacting outright bans on transgender athletes competing against biological females.

The White House was widely expected to bring in such a policy but has instead put the provision on hold. The delay is widely seen as a political maneuver during an election year in which Republicans have rallied around bans on transgender athletes in girls’ sports.

Angel Reese in the tournament

Angel Reese, #10 of the LSU Tigers, shoots the ball during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Final of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament – Albany Regional at MVP Arena on April 1, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

WNBA CHAMPION A’JA WILSON DISMISSES ACCUSATIONS SHE’S ‘JEALOUS’ OF CAITLIN CLARK: ‘I HAVE NO REASON TO BE’

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley also admitted before the national championship that she would support a transgender athlete in women’s basketball.

Reese’s remarks also came after she lamented the increased scrutiny she has received since she helped LSU to a national championship in 2023. Since then, she has had lucrative NIL deals and appeared in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition.

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“I’ve been through so much,” Reese told reporters after losing to Iowa in the tournament. “I’ve seen so much. I’ve been attacked so many times, death threats. I’ve been sexualized. I’ve been threatened. I’ve been so many things, and I’ve stood strong every single time.

Angel Reese and Cameron Brink

Draftees Angel Reese, left, and Cameron Brink pose for a phot during the 2024 WNBA Draft on April 14, 2024 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn, New York. (Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images)

“I just try to stand strong for my teammates because I don’t want them to see me down and not be there for them. I’m still a human. All this has happened since I won the national championship. I haven’t had peace since then.”

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