After weeks of public back-and-forth, the LSU women’s basketball team visited the White House today to celebrate their recent NCAA championship win.
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 gentleman Doug Emhoff, where the president praised the team and pushed for more of a focus on women’s sports.
“Folks, we need to support women’s sports not just during championship runs but the entire year, and every season,” President Biden said.
He also joked that head coach Kim Mulkey, who earned her third NCAA championship with the win in April, was becoming a frequent White House visitor.
“Isn’t this getting old to you?” President Biden teased.
The ceremony, though, was briefly halted when LSU’s Sa’Myah Smith fainted as the team gathered on stage. She was quickly attended to by medical personnel, and Mulkey said that Smith was “fine” and mostly just “embarrassed.”
The visit came after star player Angel Reese, 20, said in April that her winning team would not accept the Bidens’ invite to the White House. (She later changed her tune.)
Reese initially declined the invite because she was upset that Dr. Biden suggested that both women’s teams from the NCAA Tournament final — the Louisiana State University Tigers and Iowa Hawkeyes in Dallas — should come to D.C.
“So I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House, we always do,” Jill, 71, said at the time, per CNN. “So, we hope LSU will come but, you know, I’m going to tell Joe [Biden] I think Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game,” she added.
“In the beginning, we were hurt — it was emotional because we know how hard we worked all year for everything,” Reese said in an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter, about why she first snubbed Biden’s invite.
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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 for sure and my coaches are supportive of that, so I’m going to do what’s best for the team, and we’ve decided we’re going to go,” she added. “I’m a team player. I’m going to do what’s best for the team. I’m the captain.”
Traditionally, only the national champions receive an invitation to the White House. If Iowa had also received an official invitation, it would have been the first time both title game teams were offered the opportunity.
After hearing about Biden’s dual invitation, Reese retweeted a story about it and called it “A JOKE,” with three laughing emojis.
“It bothers me because you’re a woman at the end of the day, and you’re supposed to be standing behind us before anything,” Reese said of the incident on the I Am Athlete podcast. “So, it’s hard to see things like that and not comment back on it.”
The suggestion to invite both teams may have had good intentions, but the idea came just one day after Reese became the subject of harsh, racially-tinged online criticism.
Reese dealt with attacks on Twitter after the broadcast 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 postgame press conference, the NCAA champion said, “All year I was critiqued about who I was. I don’t fit the narrative. I don’t fit in the box that you all want me to be in. I’m too hood, I’m too ghetto. You told me that all year. But when other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing.”