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Jill Biden sparks controversy after NCAA women’s basketball championship

Apr 05, 2023


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This year’s NCAA women’s basketball championship matchup between the Iowa Hawkeyes and LSU Tigers became the most-viewed women’s college basketball game of all time, with a record 9.9 million viewers on ABC and ESPN2, according to fast national numbers by Nielsen. Yet, despite the excitement surrounding the big game, comments made by First Lady Jill Biden after its conclusion have been generating some controversy.

“I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House; we always do. So, we hope LSU will come,” Biden said. “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come too, because they played such a good game.”

Biden’s idea to have second place Iowa invited to the White House along with the championship winning LSU team has sparked backlash from the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player winner, Angel Reese. Reese took to social media to call the first lady’s proposal “a joke,” and seemed to suggest in another post that the team will now not be attending a White House visit.

The Lady Tigers All-American forward also gave praise to a tweet from teammate Alexis Morris, which asked former First Lady Michelle Obama to host the squad for a visit at her residence instead.

“I mean, [Biden] felt like [Iowa] should’ve came because of sportsmanship, right?” Reese said during an interview on an “I Am Athlete” podcast. “They can have that spotlight. We’ll go to the Obamas, we’ll see Michelle, we’ll see Barack.”

Iowa’s Wooden Award winning star Caitlin Clark has even come out to say she does not think the Hawkeyes should accompany LSU to the White House. Clark explained that though she appreciated Biden supporting woman’s basketball, a presidential visit should be “for LSU” and that “they should enjoy every single second of being the champion.”

“I don’t think runner-ups usually go to the White House,” Clark said during an appearance on ESPN. “LSU should enjoy that moment for them. And congratulations, obviously; they deserve to go there. Maybe I could go to the White House on different terms though.”

“I gratefully acknowledge the first lady’s sentiments, but a day at the White House should belong solely to the champion, LSU and [head] coach [Kim] Mulkey,” echoed Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder in a tweet. “We would welcome the first lady and president to come to Iowa’s ‘House’ – Carver Hawkeye Arena — anytime.”

Meanwhile, numerous sports commentators have been giving their takes on the situation after the game, with some believing Iowa’s White House invitation was either racially or politically motivated. The gesture has been criticized over both the feeling its intent was for “pandering in politics” to Iowa, as well as a perceived double-standard that it posed for white and Black athletes. 

“Now, because the people that won, the young ladies that won, look like me, and the people that lost look like [First Lady Biden], now we gonna invite the runner-up,” NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe, who is Black, said on Fox Sports 1. “Did you forget who helped put your husband in the White House? You gonna find out a very serious, hard lesson in ‘24. You’ll be like a Kentucky or Duke freshman. You’ll be one-and-done.”

“Listen, unless you’re incredibly naive, you understand that the president or first lady does not make any public statement without the political implications in mind,” ESPN host Max Kellerman said. “This is politically motivated, obviously. Why? What jumps to mind? The Iowa caucus.”

As the debate continues over whether a similar invitation would have been extended to LSU were the roles reversed, the first lady’s team has taken steps to walk back her comments. Biden’s press secretary said she meant only to applaud the historic game and all women athletes, while adding she looks forward to hosting the LSU team at the White House.

“The First Lady loved watching the NCAA women’s basketball championship game alongside young student athletes and admires how far women have advanced in sports since the passing of Title IX,” tweeted Vanessa Valdivia, press secretary for the first lady. “Her comments in Colorado were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes. She looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers on their championship win at the White House.”

However, whether or not the Tigers accept such an invite remains to be seen. When asked if LSU would ultimately visit the White House, Reese said, “We’re gonna see. I don’t know.”

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