LSU Women’s Basketball Team Only to be Invited to White House, Clarifies Press Secretary

Biden Press Secretary Clarifies White House Invitation Only for LSU After Women’s Basketball Player Criticizes It as “A Joke”

LSU women’s basketball player Angel Reese criticized the White House’s invitation to both LSU and Iowa’s women’s basketball teams after first lady Jill Biden suggested it. Biden congratulated both teams on their performance in Sunday’s national championship game, but Reese tweeted calling the invitation “A JOKE” along with three rolling-on-floor-laughing emojis.

In response to Reese’s comments, Vanessa Valdivia, press secretary to the first lady, clarified Biden’s comments, saying they “were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes.” Valdivia added that the first lady looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers’ championship win at the White House.

Traditionally, only the national champions are invited to the White House, not the runners-up. Before Valdivia’s clarification, ESPN host Stephen A. Smith had echoed Reese’s sentiment, saying, “Runner-ups don’t get invited to the White House. Why are we trying to change it now? I completely agree with you, Angel.”

LSU won its first NCAA women’s basketball championship on Sunday with a record-breaking score of 102-85. The victory drew a record-breaking average of 9.9 million viewers, according to ESPN.

Reese has been in the headlines following LSU’s victory, particularly for her gesture towards Iowa guard Caitlin Clark. Reese could be seen approaching Clark before moving her open hand in front of her face, popularized by WWE star John Cena to mean “you can’t see me,” before pointing to her ring finger in a gesture some interpreted as a reference to the place her newly-acquired championship ring might sit.

The gesture sparked much debate, especially on social media. Some criticized Reese, while others defended her actions, highlighting how there was no public outrage in response to Clark’s similar gesture earlier in the tournament.

In the press conference after the victory, Reese referenced the difference in reaction she received as a result of her gesture as compared to the one Clark received. She said, “All year, I was critiqued for who I was. I don’t fit the narrative. I don’t fit the box that y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year. But when other people do it, and y’all don’t say nothing. So this is for the girls that look like me. For those that want to speak up for what they believe in. It’s unapologetically you. And that’s what I did it for tonight. It was bigger than me tonight. And Twitter is going to go into a rage every time.”

Despite the controversy, head coach Kim Mulkey said she would go to the White House if the team was invited.

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