College Basketball

Albany strikes back, bar owner calls for ESPN ban after Rebecca Lobo trashes state capital

The people of Albany are hitting back after former UConn and Liberty star Rebecca Lobo threw shade at the city while calling Monday’s LSU-Iowa March Madness game on ESPN.

As the broadcast showed Caitlin Clark’s parents, Brent and Anne, and one of her brothers near the end of the game, play-by-play man Ryan Ruocco said, “[Clark] told us, ‘they’ve been reaching out to me,’ and I’ve told them, ‘just go find something to do in Albany. I’m just staying in my room and just waiting for the game.’”

“By the way, good luck finding something to do in Albany,” Lobo, 50, replied laughing.

This enraged Todd Shapiro, a former spokesman for Ivana Trump and the owner of the “War Room Tavern” in Albany who has called for bars and restaurants to cancel their ESPN subscription and for Lobo to apologize.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy, who has written many fictional books based on Albany and its characters, said he “feels bad” for Lobo.

“If she can’t find something to do in Albany, there’s some psychological problem going on,” Kennedy, the 96-year-old Albany native, said.

“Albany is not the capital of entertainment in the world, but it’s a livewire city.

Basketball Hall of Famer Rebecca Lobo (l.) threw shade at the city of Albany while calling Monday’s LSU-Iowa game on ESPN with Ryan Ruocco (r.) NBAE via Getty Images

“The woman might have a problem finding something to do anywhere in the world if she can’t find something to do in Albany. Give her my best wishes.” 

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan responded to a video of Lobo’s comment on X, defending the city as a happening place.

“There’s plenty to do if you take the time to look — some of the nation’s oldest museums, a stately Capitol, award-winning restaurants, and a basketball game or two downtown,” Sheehan wrote on X. “@RebeccaLobo, let’s take a ride before you leave town. Happy to show you all there is to see and do.”

Todd Shapiro Hans Pennink

Dawn Staley, the head coach of undefeated South Carolina, had nothing but praise for Albany as a host city for the women’s NCAA Tournament.

“I thought this region did an excellent job at hosting all the teams, the hotels, the gym was very accommodating,” Staley said after the Gamecocks beat Oregon State on Sunday to advance to the Final Four. “If you make a bid for it again, you’ve got my vote.”

New York State assemblyman John McDonald said he paid $1,300 and attended all four sessions during the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

“I’ve never seen crowds like this, who were really there for all the right reasons, we had great caliber women’s basketball,” McDonald said. “We’ll give [Lobo] a pass on that. Because quite frankly, I think Albany was a great host for the tournament, did a phenomenal job.”

Lobo responded to the backlash on X.

“I’ve spent many fun-filled weekends in the Albany area over the years coaching my kids’ AAU teams,” she wrote. “No shade intended towards the capital city and the outstanding job they did hosting the regional.”

Kennedy admitted Albany has “flaws” but insists they are “temporary.”

“In Albany anything is possible,” Kennedy said.

— Additional reporting by Carl Campanile and Vaughn Golden