LA Times Writer Apologizes for Sports Column Calling LSU Women’s Basketball Players ‘Dirty Debutantes’

“I have failed miserably in my choice of words,” Ben Bolch admitted of his NCAA Sweet 16 coverage

The 2023 NCAA Women's Basketball title game (Getty Images)

Los Angeles Times columnist Ben Bolch issued an apology Monday for his Saturday column predicting the NCAA women’s basketball matchup between LSU and UCLA would be a “reckoning” between good and evil.

Louisiana State University was framed as the Sweet 16’s evil side with language like “hellbent,” while UCLA was painted as the good guys who were “operating in the saintly shadows.” Bolch’s apology arrived two days after the column was published.

“I wanted to be as thoughtful as possible in my response to the situation I have created. These are words I have not been asked to write by anyone at my paper, but they need to be expressed so that I can own up to my mistake,” he began a statement on Twitter. “Words matter. As a journalist, no one should know this more than me. Yet I have failed miserably in my choice of words. I tried to be clever in my phrasing about one team’s attitude, using alliteration while not understanding the deeply offensive connotation or associations. I also used metaphors that were not appropriate.”

Language since removed from the edited column also referred to Louisiana State’s athletes as “dirty debutantes” and the UCLA players as “milk and cookies.”

“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,” Bolch added. “It was not my intent to be hurtful, but I now understand that I terribly missed the mark.”

LSU beat UCLA 78-69, and the Tigers’ head coach Kim Mulkey denounced the article, calling the language used to describe both teams as “sexist.”

“It was good versus evil in that game today. Evil? Called us, ‘Dirty debutantes?’” Mulkey said after the game. “Take your phone out right now and google ‘dirty debutantes’ and tell me what it says. ‘Dirty debutantes?’ Are you kidding me?”

“I’m not going to let you talk about 18- to 21-year-old kids in that tone. It was even sexist for this reporter to say UCLA was milk and cookies,” she added, though she didn’t request an apology. “I don’t need all that … I just like to recognize when I feel something was done inappropriately to young people that I get to coach.”

Bolch has regularly covered UCLA as part of his beat. 


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