College basketball star Angel Reese says she and her LSU teammates will not visit the White House in the aftermath of comments made by first lady Jill Biden.
LSU won their first-ever national title on Sunday with victory over Iowa. It is traditional for national champions in the US to meet the president, but on Monday Biden said she would be happy for Iowa to join LSU.
“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.”
It was not clear how serious Biden was being and her spokesperson appeared to later walk the comments back.
Reese described Biden’s comments as a “joke” on social media. And in an appearance on the I Am Athlete podcast she went further.
“I don’t accept the apology because you said what you said … You can’t go back on certain things that you say … They can have that spotlight,” said Reese. “We’ll go to the Obamas. We’ll go see Michelle. We’ll see Barack.”
Some believe that Iowa, whose team is mostly white, were given more favourable coverage in the media than LSU, whose team is mostly Black. Most notably, Reese made the “You can’t see me” gesture – made famous by wrestler John Cena – towards Iowa star Caitlin Clark as the Tigers closed out their 102-85 victory on Sunday.
Reese, who is Black, received abuse for the gesture on social media. Others pointed out that Clark, who is white, had made the same gesture earlier in the tournament but had been praised for her fighting spirit.
Reese appeared to reference that disparity on the I Am Athlete podcast.
“I just know if the roles were reversed, they wouldn’t be the same,” she said. “If we were to lose, we would not be getting invited to the White House.”
On Tuesday, Clark said Iowa should not be invited to the White House.
“That’s for LSU,” Clark told ESPN. “They should enjoy every single second of being the champion. I think that’s theirs to do.
“I don’t think runner-ups usually go to the White House. LSU should enjoy that moment for them,” she said. “And congratulations, obviously, they deserve to go there. Maybe I could go to the White House [in the future] on different terms.”
The Obamas have not responded to Reese’s comments.
Champion teams have missed White House visits in the past. In 2019, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors met Barack Obama instead of visiting Donald Trump’s White House. They had skipped meetings with Trump on two previous occasions.
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