Angel Reese and her LSU basketball teammates visited the White House Friday to celebrate their national championship victory over Iowa, albeit after some reluctance on behalf of the Tigers top star.
The invitation to LSU this year became a source of controversy after First Lady Jill Biden said in a speech that the defeated Iowa Hawkeyes should also come to the White House “because they played such a good game” in the NCAA Finals on April 2 .
In recent decades, the White House has typically hosted only title winners, and Jill’s proposed departure from this tradition seemed to offend the reigning national champions, including Reese.
A first-team All-American, playfully known as Bayou Barbie for her glamorous social media profile, Reese said in April that she and her teammates would rather meet former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle. More recently, Reese changed her mind and said she and her teammates would meet the Bidens at the White House.
“You showed us, boys and girls, women and men, what it means to be champions,” Jill said, wearing a purple suit that matched the school’s color scheme.
Jill Biden opened Friday’s festivities by congratulating the LSU Tigers on their national title win
Angel Reese shared some snaps on Instagram, where she’s often referred to as “Bayou Barbie.”
Friday’s lighthearted affair briefly seemed an impossibility after Jill Biden suggested that Iowa should also visit the White House.
“A JOKE,” she tweeted at the time, along with three rolling-on-the-floor laughing emojis.
Shortly afterward, Reese said in a podcast that her team should instead celebrate their title with Barack and Michelle Obama.
Reese said 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.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not accepting the apology because you said what you said. I said what I said. And like, you can’t go back on certain things you say,” Reese told podcast hosts Brandon Marshall and Ashley Nicole Moss.
“I mean, you felt like they should have come out of sportsmanship, didn’t you?” added Reese. “They can have that spotlight. We’re going to the Obamas. We’ll see Michelle. We’ll see Barack.’
Some social media commentators noted the racial dynamic, saying that only winners should be rewarded with a visit to the White House and that hosting both teams would detract from the performance of the LSU team, which is predominantly black.
The Iowa team is mostly white. Others pointed to the important role of black women in Democratic Party politics.
President Biden did not follow through with that idea, inviting only LSU and Connecticut national champions, who visited the White House on Friday night.
Vanessa Valdivia, a spokesperson for Jill Biden, has said the first lady had not intended disrespect to LSU and that her comments were intended to applaud the historic game and all female athletes.
Reese, the Final Four’s standout player, later told ESPN during an interview that she was going to the White House because she wants to do “what’s best for the team.”
With its 102–85 victory over the Hawkeyes, LSU’s point total was the highest ever scored in a championship game by a single team. The combined total of 187 also shattered the previous mark. The game also drew a television audience of 9.9 million, a record for a women’s NCAA title game.
The most memorable moment of LSU’s historic victory came in the fourth quarter, when Reese appeared to taunt Iowa star Caitlin Clark with wrestler John Cena’s “you can’t see me” hand gesture. Reese made matters worse by pointing at her own finger, as if to say that’s where she’ll wear her championship ring.
LSU’s Angel Reese shows Iowa star Caitlin Clark where her championship ring will be worn
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, and while many took offense when Reese did it, the Hawkeyes guard said there was no reason was for the LSU star to receive criticism over the incident.
“I don’t think Angel should be criticized at all. Whichever way it goes, she should never be criticized for what she did. I’m just someone who competes — and she competed,” Clark said on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” adding, “I think everyone knew there was going to be a bit of nonsense throughout the tournament. It’s not just me and Angel.”
Social media was divided over Reese’s gesture, with some saying it was just part of the game and others saying Reese was not pardoned in the win. Reese, who also made an apparent “you’re too small” gesture several times after scoring in a 79-72 semifinal win over Virginia Tech, was unapologetic on Sunday night.
“All year I was criticized for who I was,” said Reese, who is black; Clark is white. “I don’t fit into a box you want me to be in. I’m too crazy. I’m too ghetto. But when other people do it, you say nothing. So this was for the girls who look like me who will say what they believe in. It’s you, unashamedly.’
Clark was asked on ESPN if there was a difference in how people think female players should behave compared to men.
“I think men have always had bullshit … and I think more and more people, when they turn on the game, appreciate it for what it is,” Clark said. “I’m just lucky to get to play this game and have emotion and wear it on my sleeves — and so does everyone else. So that should never be broken down, that should never be criticized, because I believe that’s what makes this game so much fun.”
Clark was the first to post consecutive 40-point games in an NCAA tournament. She also said on ESPN that LSU deserves the title – “they played so well” – and that she is a “big fan” of Reese.
Angel Reese and teammates pose for selfies after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 102-85
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LSU has remained in the news since their national championship thanks to a pair of prized transfers with the Tigers: former Louisville guard Hailey Van Lith and All-American forward Aneesah Morrow, who previously played with DePaul.
Reese has also stayed in the news, thanks to her large social media following and appearances at several high-profile events.
Meanwhile, thanks to new NCAA rules on name, image and licensing deals (NIL), Reese is worth a reported $1.4 million following her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition modeling debut.
“I’m excited and blessed to be getting these opportunities to go out and be who I am,” Reese told Sports Illustrated.