Angel Reese says she'll visit White House with team
LSU star Angel Reese said Friday that she will visit the White House with her team, days after suggesting the Tigers should instead celebrate their national championship with former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama rather than with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
Reese made the suggestion after saying she was not inclined to accept an apology from Jill Biden for suggesting that both LSU and runner-up Iowa be invited to the White House. President Biden did not follow through on that idea, inviting only LSU and men's national champion Connecticut.
On Thursday, LSU confirmed it had accepted President Biden's invitation to visit the White House. There is no set date for the visit.
Reese said Friday that she would be attending with her team.
"In the beginning we were hurt. It was emotional because we know how hard we worked all year for everything," Reese said on "SportsCenter." "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.
"I'm a team player. I'm going to do what's best for the team. I'm the captain."
After LSU's victory, coach Kim Mulkey said she would go to the White House if invited.
The White House said Friday that President Biden spoke on the phone with Mulkey and called Reese "to congratulate her on LSU's historic season and championship win."
Vanessa Valdivia, a spokesperson for Jill Biden, has said that the first lady had meant no disrespect to LSU and that her comments were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes. With its 102-85 triumph over the Hawkeyes, LSU's point total was the most ever scored in a championship game by a single team. The 187 combined total shattered the previous mark. The game also drew a television audience of 9.9 million, a record for an NCAA women's title game.
At an appearance in Denver on Monday, Jill Biden had praised Iowa's sportsmanship and congratulated both teams. She also said that as part of the long-standing tradition of having champions visit the White House, Iowa should come as well "because they played such a good game."
Reese on Monday called Jill Biden's suggestion "a joke."
Some social media commenters noted the racial dynamics involved, saying that only winners should be rewarded with a White House visit and that hosting both teams would detract from the achievement by LSU's team, which is predominantly Black. The Iowa team is largely white. Others noted the important role of Black women in Democratic Party politics.
President Biden was Obama's running mate and vice president for eight years. Obama actively campaigned for Biden in the 2020 election.
Reese faced criticism on social media for mockingly waving her hand in front of her face while staring down Iowa star Caitlin Clark near the end of the game. Clark, the Associated Press Player of the Year, made a similar gesture to no one in particular during Iowa's victory over Louisville in the Elite Eight.
Reese said she didn't think LSU, had it lost to Iowa, would have gotten the same praise from Jill Biden as the Hawkeyes did.
"If we were to lose, we would not be getting invited to the White House," Reese said. "I remember she made a comment about both teams should be invited because of sportsmanship. And I'm like, 'Are you saying that because of what I did?' Stuff like that, it bothers me because you are a woman at the end of the day. White, Black, it doesn't matter, you're a woman, you're supposed to be standing behind us before anything."
During LSU's championship parade through campus Wednesday night, a smiling Reese continued to wave her hand in front of her face, in between waves to cheering fans, as she sat in the back of an orange Corvette convertible.
Reese's expressiveness on and off the court has sparked increasing interest in her. According to Canada Sports Betting, Reese gained 500,000 Instagram followers in the two days after LSU's national title triumph, pushing her total of followers above 1 million.