(Bloomberg) –First lady Jill Biden’s office walked back her suggestion that the defeated University of Iowa women’s basketball team join national champion Louisiana State University at the White House, amid widespread backlash.
Biden “loved watching” the title game and her comments “were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes,” spokeswoman Vanessa Valdivia said Tuesday.
“She looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers on their championship win at the White House,” Valdivia added.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday invited the Tigers to the White House, and made no mention of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Congrats to @LSUwbkb who demonstrated excellence on and off the court. They showed us what it looks like to win with an unrelenting belief in themselves.
And they did it in one of the most-watched women’s sports games in US history.
You have an incredible school, @LSUpresident.
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 4, 2023
The first lady’s comments Monday roiled an already fierce debate over the game that touched on race and gender. Traditionally, only championship winners are invited to the White House to celebrate with the president.
LSU star Angel Reese, who is Black, called Biden’s suggestion “a JOKE” and teammate Alexis Morris asked if former first lady Michelle Obama would host the team.
🤣🤣🤣A JOKE. https://t.co/9SiOKQNqbj
— Angel Reese (@Reese10Angel) April 3, 2023
Others questioned whether the first lady would have wanted a losing men’s team to the White House or a team that was not led by a White star player, like Iowa’s Caitlin Clark. Louisiana Representative Troy Carter, a Democrat, said LSU “should enjoy this historic victory singularly.”
Biden praised Iowa’s performance, along with LSU’s, and said the losing side also merited a trip to the White House. She also praised the “sportsmanship” on display during the game, a 102-85 LSU victory, which the first lady watched from the stands in Dallas.
“I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House, we always do. So, we hope LSU will come,” Biden said at an event in Colorado. “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game.”
The events of the game had already generated heated discussion in sports media before Biden weighed in.
Iowa’s Clark, who won the women’s player of the year award, garnered attention throughout the tournament for her scoring prowess — and trash talk. Reese, the Final Four’s most outstanding player, taunted Clark late in the title game using one of Clark’s signature gestures.
Some critics called Reese’s move “classless,” but others said she was held to a double standard.
“I’m too hood, I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year. But when other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing. So this is for the girls that look like me.”
Angel Reese is unapologetically her 👏 @Reese10Angel pic.twitter.com/9cuCWwayhA
— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) April 2, 2023
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