President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will welcome the NCAA men’s and women’s championship basketball teams – the University of Connecticut Huskies men’s team and the Louisiana State University Tigers women’s team – to the White House on Friday.
Both teams routed their opponents on their way to cutting down the nets in their respective tournaments. The fourth-seeded Huskies won their fifth NCAA title by taking down the San Diego State Aztecs in a 76-59 trouncing, while the Tigers took down the Iowa Hawkeyes, led by burgeoning star Caitlin Clark, in a 102-85 blowout to win their first basketball championship.
The invitation was not without some controversy: Dr. Biden, who attended the NCAA women’s title game in Dallas last month, garnered backlash after she suggested she wanted runner-up Iowa to attend as well.
“I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House, we always do. So, we hope LSU will come,” Dr. Biden said at the time. “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game.”
The blowback from Dr. Biden’s comments included reaction from LSU star Angel Reese, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, who called it “A JOKE” accompanied by “rolling-on-the-floor-laughing” emojis in a Twitter post.
On a podcast shortly after, Reese said her team should instead celebrate their title with former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.
“If we were to lose, we would not be getting invited to the White House,” she said, adding: “We’ll go to the Obamas. We’ll see Michelle; we’ll see Barack.”
She later told ESPN during an interview that she would go to the White House because she wants to do “what’s best for the team.”
"In the beginning, we were hurt. It was emotional because we know how hard we worked all year for everything," Reese said on ESPN’s "SportsCenter."
"You don't get that experience ever, and I know my team probably wants to go for sure and my coaches are supportive of that, so I'm going to do what's best for the team and we've decided we're going to go,” she added. “I'm a team player. I'm going to do what's best for the team. I'm the captain.”
Clark also seemed to pan the idea of attending such a ceremony, telling ESPN in an interview last month: "I don't think runner-ups usually go to the White House.”
“I think LSU should you know enjoy that moment for them and congratulations, obviously, they deserve to go there,” she told the outlet. “Maybe I could go to the White House on different terms, but I think that's for LSU."
In a Twitter post, Iowa’s coach, Lisa Bluder, “gratefully acknowledged” Dr. Biden’s comments, but added that “a day at the White House should belong solely to the champion, LSU and Coach Mulkey.”
“We would welcome the First Lady and President to come to Iowa’s “House” – Carver Hawkeye Arena — any time!” she added.
Dr. Biden’s press secretary, Vanessa Valdivia, later clarified that Dr. Biden’s comments were out of an admiration for the championship game and a celebration of “all women athletes.”
“The First Lady loved watching the NCAA women's basketball championship game alongside young student athletes and admires how far women have advanced in sports since the passing of Title IX,” Valdivia wrote on Twitter last month.
“Her comments in Colorado were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes,” she continued. “She looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers on their championship win at the White House.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.