LA Times writer issues apology over controversial LSU op-ed that called team ‘dirty debutantes’… after head coach Kim Mulkey hit out at ‘sexist’ wording: ‘I terribly missed the mark’

LA Times columnist Ben Bolch has issued an apology for his op-ed which referred to LSU’s women’s basketball team as ‘dirty debutantes’ – a line that was slammed as ‘sexist’ by Tigers coach Kim Mulkey.

In previewing LSU’s Sweet 16 matchup vs. UCLA (who Bolch regularly covers), he also pitted the contest as a matchup between ‘good versus evil,’ while referring to LSU as ‘villains’ and calling UCLA ‘milk and cookies.’

On Monday – just before the Tigers’ Elite 8 matchup vs. Iowa – Bolch said he had ‘terribly missed the mark’ and ‘failed miserably in my choice of words.’

‘It has taken me two days to write this apology because I wanted to be as thoughtful as possible in my response to the situation I have created,’ Bolch wrote. ‘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.

‘Words matter. As a journalist, no one should know this more than me. Yet I have failed miserably in my choice of words. In my column previewing the LSU-UCLA women’s basketball game, I tried to be clever in my phrasing about one team’s attitude, using alliteration while not understanding the deeply offensive connotation or associations. 

KIm Mulkey also called the LA Times’ column sexist after the team’s victory over UCLA

LSU's Hailey Van Lith also spoke up about comments she believed are fueled by racism

LSU’s Hailey Van Lith also spoke up about comments she believed are fueled by racism

‘I also used metaphors that were not appropriate. 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. It was not my intent to be hurtful, but I now understand that I terribly missed the mark.

‘I sincerely apologize to the LSU and UCLA basketball teams and to our readers. UCLA, a school I have covered for nearly a decade, champions diversity and is known as a leader in inclusivity. However, I have not upheld that standard in what I wrote and I will do much better. I am deeply sorry.’

In response to Bolch’s piece, LSU star Hailey Van Lith said that negative comments about the team are fueled by racism.

Van Lith is only one of two white players on LSU’s roster of a dozen women.

The second line in an LA Times op-ed critical of LSU's women's team was eventually edited

The second line in an LA Times op-ed critical of LSU’s women’s team was eventually edited

‘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.

‘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,’ Van Lith added. ‘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,’ Van Lith continued. ‘That’s not motivating. But 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.’

‘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 concluded.

The LA Times later updated Bolch’s piece, writing that ‘a previous version of this commentary did not meet Times editorial standards.’

The line including the phrase ‘dirty debutantes’ was removed.