June 22, 2024
March 31, 2024
3 mins read

Kim Mulkey takes on all oncomers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably have heard about the Kim Mulkey profile produced by Washington Post writer Kent Babb. Last week, Mulkey gave the entire world a heads-up that it would be published after the writer apparently spent several years researching and compiling info. Last week Mulkey threatened to sue.

Now we were really curious.

The Washington Post published the article within hours of LSU’s matchup against UCLA in the Women’s Sweet 16.

And if you are like me, one of the hundreds of thousands of internet users who visited the Washington Post website for the first time in who knows how long Saturday, you saw the top banner, “Democracy dies in the darkness”. So Babb perhaps saw his job as shedding little light on a college sports phenomenon by the name of Kim Mulkey. Brash, outspoken, flamboyant but deeply principled. Someone who is highly successful but clashes with certain thinking of the times.

Babb attempts to hold Mulkey or by extension big-time athletics (and it doesn’t get bigger than LSU when it comes to women’s college basketball) accountable. But Mulkey in her way wants to hold journalism accountable. She sees clear lines just as she would on a basketball floor. Clear boundaries that she thought Babb crossed.

As the women’s game has taken over the sports headlines-many would assume Mulkey would be a little unnerved into the evasion and the microscope.  It doesn’t really seem that she is so unnerved by it as she is annoyed with a deeper sense of right and wrong that is in conflict with other forces in her world, former players, her father and a sister.

What I learned from reading the Washington Post piece on Kim Mulkey

I had to give the WaPo website one of my e-mail addresses in order to read it for free. This was march madness must read, I didn’t need to sign up for a subscription but I did need to surrender an e-mail address. The capital return for the Post is the contact info of curious potential new readers who will no doubt get frequent e-mails from the paper advertising their digital subscription options.

The piece itself was an attempt at a profile, without the subject’s cooperation. The author Kent Babb, a Washington Post journalist, found enough people close to Mulkey including the coach’s 84-year-old father and her sister, along with former players willing to speak to fill in the gaps.

Many declined comment. An unauthorized mini-biography for the digital era.

Was it a hit piece?

What to leave out, and what isn’t told makes a profile incomplete it would seem. The assumption when reading the article is that we get a complete profile of Mulkey.  But there are missing pieces. The article mentions Mulkey’s divorce very briefly but leaves key information from Mulkey’s own autobiographies that even in the form of a one-sentence summary would paint a more complete picture.

The central theme of the article is Mulkey’s communication mostly several years in the past that players should hide or not flaunt their sexual preference. That appears to be the point of contention both with some former players and the article as a whole.

We also learn that Mulkey’s coaching could be physically and mentally demanding-and her ability to come after a player verbally probably hasn’t been great.

The Aftermath.

Mulkey’s introduction to the larger sports world has been happening over a few years but this puts her front and center, front page. Her teams win and continued to win the day the story was published. As the women’s game increases popularity at a rate not seen in any other sport or at any other time, it does seem like odd timing. Is the Washington Post Sports Illustrated now?

It does seem odd that a writer at the Washington Post cares about what happens in Baton Rouge. Babb also wrote a profile on LSU football coach Brian Kelly centered on the fact that the man makes a ton, unseemly amount of money in comparison to the citizens in the Bayou region or even students or others employed at LSU.

It’s political. It’s drama. The writer insinuates that Kim Mulkey can’t have it both ways, can’t be front in center, the 3.5 million dollar a year coach with flashy outfits and a larger than life persona can’t just escape the watchful eye of critics.

The LA Times Article

As a college basketball star in her own right, this isn’t Mulkey’s first rodeo in the gender sport debate. As such Saturday after LSU’s win over UCLA she drew attention to an L.A. Times article that called her players “dirty debutantes”. Mulkey said the article was sexist and many agree with her.

She’s willing to take on all comers including the media. It doesn’t seem like a war many can win but although the women’s game hasn’t been front and center for very long, Mulkey seems like she’ll be able to navigate it better than most.

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