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Jill Biden's White House invite to losing team Iowa sparks race debate

While it is customary for NCAA national champions to get an invitation to the White House, the same can’t be said for the losing team.

Jill Biden's White House invite to losing team Iowa sparks race debate
LSU's Angel Reese makes a hand gesture in front of Iowa's Caitlin Clark.
Tony Gutierrez / AP
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President Biden seemed to damper down the expectation, Tuesday, that both the NCAA women's winner's and losers will be making a trip to the White House. 

In a Twitter thread where he only mentions the men's and women's winning teams he wrote: " both our women’s champions, @LSU, and men’s champions, @UConn, showed us the best of what this country can be." And "I look forward to welcoming them at each of their White House visits."

His tweet followed First Lady Jill Biden extending the traditional White House visit to both the losing Iowa women’s basketball team and the newly crowned national champions Louisiana State University. 

"I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House, we always do, so we’ll have LSU come, but you know what? I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come too, because they played such a good game," first lady Jill Biden said while speaking in Denver.

The first lady watched from the stands as LSU defeated Iowa in the NCAA women’s basketball championship 102-85 Sunday night.

LSU wins 1st NCAA title, Mulkey's 4th, beating Clark, Iowa
LSU wins 1st NCAA title, Mulkey's 4th, beating Clark, Iowa

LSU wins 1st NCAA title, Mulkey's 4th, beating Clark, Iowa

LSU used a record offensive performance to beat Iowa 102-85 and win the first basketball title, men's or women's, in school history.

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While it is customary for winners to get a White House invitation, the same can’t be said for the losing team, sparking controversy from both players and the public.

LSU star Angel Reese tweeted that the first lady's remarks were "A JOKE," alongside three laughing emojis.

This comes amid frustrations with comparisons between Reese’s predominantly Black team and Iowa’s mostly White team.

"All year I was critiqued about who I was," Reese said post-game. "I don’t fit the narrative, I don’t fit in 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, y’all don’t say nothing.”

Reese, who is Black, was alluding to the difference in reaction to her on-court gestures and the reaction to those of players like Iowa star Caitlin Clark, who is White, who made the same gestures but didn't face as much backlash.

Reese said her win was for "the girls who look like me," and who are unapologetically themselves. People chimed in on social media in support of Reese and to share their distaste for Biden’s potential Iowa invite.

"No Ma’am!" tweeted former White House aide Keith Boykin. "When Black women win a national championship, they should not be forced to share the stage with the losing team. Black women are the most loyal constituency of the Democratic Party. The White House needs to walk this back as soon as possible."

Popular sportscaster Stephen A. Smith shared similar sentiments.

"I mean absolutely zero disrespect to the First Lady, but you are 1000% correct," Smith tweeted at Reese. "That is a bad suggestion. Runner-ups don’t get invited to the White House. Why are we trying to change it now? I completely agree with you, Angel."

Reese’s LSU teammate Alexis Morris asked if the team can celebrate with Michelle Obama.

"Michelle OBAMA can we (LSU NATIONAL CHAMPS) come celebrate our win at your house," Morris tweeted.

"It's a friendly gesture. There was nothing — there was no profanity on it. There was no anger, anger associated with it. I think the double standards are are deafening. And we in America should get it better," Louisiana Congressman Troy Carter (D-La.) said of the gesture.

Carter told Scripps News he spoke to the White House after the invite was extended, saying it was "not done with any malice."  

"In the truest form of being a a stateswoman, she complimented both sides. And unfortunately, it went a little further than it should have been, because in complimenting both sides, we should never blur the lines of who the real winners are. LSU won the game. LSU gets the prize. LSU gets the trophy. LSU gets the championship. And LSU singularly should be in the White House," he said. 

Dr. Biden's press secretary also tweeted out Tuesday morning: "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."

While speaking in Denver, Biden congratulated both teams and also acknowledged how far women’s sports have come.