WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he looks forward to hosting the NCAA men’s and women’s championship basketball teams, the University of Connecticut and Louisiana State University, at the White House, appearing to shut the door on a suggestion a day earlier by his wife, Jill, that the defeated Iowa women’s team be invited, too.
President Biden tweeted Tuesday that LSU and Connecticut “showed us the best of what this country can be.”
“We can all learn a lot from watching these champions compete,” the president said, “and I look forward to welcoming them at each of their White House visits.” He did not announce dates, and the comment suggests that Iowa will not be invited.
Following LSU’s victory, coach Kim Mulkey said she would go to the White House if the team, the Tigers, was invited. There was no immediate comment from Connecticut, but the team has made the trip to the White House after winning the NCAA title game in prior years.
The first lady, who is a big sports fan, had watched LSU’s 102-85 victory over Iowa from the stands in the Dallas arena on Sunday alongside tennis great Billie Jean King and several college athletes.
During an appearance Monday in Denver with Colorado lawmakers, Jill Biden followed up by praising Iowa’s sportsmanship and congratulated both teams on their performance. She noted the long-standing White House tradition of celebrating championship sports teams — and added a twist.
“I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House, we always do. So, we hope LSU will come,” she said. “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game.”
The suggestion didn’t go over well. LSU star Angel Reese, who was honored as Most Outstanding Player, on Monday tweeted a link to a story on Jill Biden’s remarks. “A JOKE,” Reese wrote, along with three rolling-on-floor-laughing emojis.
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Others commenting on social media said only winners should be rewarded with a White House visit and that also inviting Iowa would detract from LSU’s achievement. The LSU team is predominantly Black and Iowa is largely white.
Vanessa Valdivia, a spokesperson for Jill Biden, said the first lady was excited by watching the women’s game and meant no disrespect to LSU by suggesting a White House invite for Iowa.
“Her comments in Colorado were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes,” Valdivia tweeted Tuesday. “She looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers on their championship win at the White House.”
During her remarks in Colorado, the first lady also talked about how U.S. women have excelled in athletics since Title IX in 1972 gave women equal rights in sports at schools that receive federal funding.
“It was so exciting, wasn’t it?” she asked Monday. “It was such a great game. I’m old enough that I remember when we got Title IX. We fought so hard, right? We fought so hard. And look at where women’s sports have come today.”
Reese — the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player — has gotten a lot of attention on social media during the past 24 hours, ever since she waved her hand in front of her face while staring down Iowa star Caitlin Clark in the final moments of LSU’s win, then pointed toward her finger as if to say a ring was coming.
Clark set the record for points scored in an NCAA Tournament with 191 in six games. If she saw Reese’s gestures, Clark didn’t seem concerned about them.
Social media lit up in the aftermath, with some believing it was trash talk that’s just part of the game while others condemned her for lacking grace in victory. Reese was unapologetic.
“All year, I was critiqued about who I was,” Reese said. “I don’t fit in a box that y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. But when other people do it, y’all say nothing. So this was for the girls that look like me, that’s going to speak up on what they believe in. It’s unapologetically you.”
Clark, the scoring sensation who was the first with consecutive 40-point games in an NCAA Tournament, made a similar face-waving gesture to no one in particular during Iowa’s Elite Eight victory over Louisville.
The pushback over the first lady’s NCAA comments recalled an episode last year when she apologized for saying Latinos are “as unique” as the breakfast tacos served in San Antonio. She had made the comment during a speech to nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization.
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists and others registered their offense on social media, with the journalists’ organization tweeting that, “We are not tacos.”
AP Sports Writers David Brandt, Schuyler Dixon and Eric Olson contributed to this story.
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE Associated Press