After weeks of public back-and-forth, the LSU women’s basketball team headed to the White House today to celebrate their recent NCAA championship victory.
The team arrived at the White House in the afternoon for a special ceremony with President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Mr. Doug Emhoff, where the President praised the team and pushed to focus more on women’s sport.
“My friends, we need to support women’s sports not just during championships, but all year round and every season,” President Biden said.
He also joked that head coach Kim Mulkey, who captured his third NCAA championship with the victory in April, was becoming a frequent visitor to the White House.
“Isn’t it getting old for you?” President Biden teased.
The ceremony, however, was briefly interrupted when LSU’s Sa’Myah Smith passed out as the team gathered onstage. She was quickly attended to by medical staff, and Mulkey said Smith was “fine” and mostly “embarrassed”.
The visit came after star player Angel Reese, 20, said in April that her winning team would not accept the Bidens’ invitation to the White House. (She then changed her tone.)
Reese initially declined the invitation because she was upset that Dr. Biden had suggested that the two women’s teams in the NCAA Tournament Finals – the Louisiana State University Tigers and the Hawkeyes of Iowa to Dallas – should come to DC.
“So I know we’ll bring the champions to the White House, we always do,” Jill, 71, said at the time, per CNN. “So we’re hoping LSU comes but, you know, I’m gonna tell Joe [Biden] I think Iowa should come too, because they played such a good game,” she added.
“At first we were hurt – it was emotional because we know how hard we’ve worked all year for everything,” Reese said during an appearance on ESPN. sports centeron why she initially snubbed Biden’s invitation.
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“You don’t get that experience [to go to the White House] ever, and I know my team probably wants to go there and my coaches are okay with that, so I’m going to do what’s best for the team, and we’ve decided to go.” she added, “I’m a team player. I will do what is best for the team. I’m the captain.”
Traditionally, only national champions receive an invitation to the White House. Had Iowa also received an official invite, it would have been the first time both teams in the title game had been offered the opportunity.
After hearing about Biden’s double invite, Reese retweeted a story about it and called it “A JOKE,” complete with three laughing emojis.
“It bothers me because you’re a woman at the end of the day, and you’re supposed to be behind us before anything,” Reese said of the incident on the I am an athlete podcast. “So it’s hard to see things like that and not comment.”
The suggestion to invite both teams may have had good intentions, but the idea came just a day after Reese faced harsh and racist criticism online.
Reese faced attacks on Twitter after the show showed her taunting Iowa’s Caitlin Clark with the “you can’t see me” hand gesture made popular by wrestler John Cena, which Clark had done herself earlier in the tournament.
During her post-game press conference, the NCAA champion said: “All year I’ve been criticized for who I was. I don’t fit the narrative. I don’t fit into the box you all want me to be in. I’m too ghetto, I’m too ghetto. You’ve been telling me all year. But when others do, you don’t say anything.