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After outcry, Jill Biden's office says White House invitation is for LSU women's team

First Lady Jill Biden takes a her seat before the start of the NCAA Women's Final Four championship basketball game between LSU and Iowa Sunday, April 2, 2023, in Dallas.
Tony Gutierrez
/
AP
First Lady Jill Biden takes a her seat before the start of the NCAA Women's Final Four championship basketball game between LSU and Iowa Sunday, April 2, 2023, in Dallas.

It's customary for the winner of the NCAA women's basketball championship to receive an invitation to visit the White House. But earlier this week, first lady Jill Biden was all in to host both Louisiana State University and the University of Iowa following Sunday's game — even though LSU won.

Now, the first lady has walked back her apparent dual invitation, following lots of negative reactions across social media and television. A particularly strong objection came from LSU star player Angel Reese, who called the dual invite "A JOKE" in a tweet.

During an event on Monday at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver, Biden congratulated both teams — praising them on their performance and highlighting Iowa's sportsmanship.

"I know we'll have the champions come to the White House; we always do. So, we hope LSU will come," the First lady said. "But, you know, I'm going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come too, because they played such a good game."

But Vanessa Valdivia, press secretary for the first lady, later clarified Biden's comments on Tuesday morning, tweeting that the comments "were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes." (The Office of the First Lady of the United States did not immediately respond to NPR's separate request for comment about her remarks.)

"[The first lady] looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers on their championship win at the White House," Valdivia added.

President Joe Biden tweeted Tuesday that he's also looking forward to welcoming the LSU women's basketball team to the White House — with no mention of Iowa.

News of the first lady's comments on the dual White House invitation came on the heels of a viral moment between Reese and Iowa Hawkeyes guard Caitlin Clark.

During Sunday's tournament game, Reese —who transferred from the University of Maryland last fall — celebrated the Tigers' lead against the Hawkeyes by making a hand gesture popularized by wrestler John Cena, titled "You Can't See Me."

The moment instantly went viral, as sports commentators and fans criticized Reese for what they perceived as an "unsportsmanlike" move toward Clark.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a reporter on the Newsdesk covering both race & identity and breaking news.
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