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US basketball star shuns White House invite

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Louisiana State University star Angel Reese says she and her Tigers teammates won’t celebrate their collegiate basketball crown at the White House after First Lady Jill Biden suggested runners-up Iowa should be honored too.

An invitation to the White House is a traditional honor bestowed on US sports champions and there was quick backlash to the first lady’s suggestion that the University of Iowa team should also be invited, despite falling 102-85 to LSU in the NCAA women’s final in Dallas on Sunday.

“I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House, we always do,” Biden said in comments at an appearance in Colorado on Monday. “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game,” she added, referring to her husband, President Joe Biden.

Attempts by the first lady and the White House to walk back the idea haven’t appeased star center Reese, who told the “I Am Athlete” podcast that she and her teammates weren’t interested in a White House visit.

“You can’t go back on certain things that you say,” Reese said. “You felt that they (Iowa) should have came because of ‘sportsmanship,’ right? They can have that spotlight.

“We’ll go to the Obamas,” she added. “We’ll go see Michelle. We’ll see Barack.”

Jill Biden was among a sell-out crowd of 19,482 at Sunday’s championship game, the culmination of a compelling women’s tournament that saw Iowa and star Caitlin Clark stun the unbeaten South Carolina Gamecocks to reach the final.

Reese, who scored 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the title game, was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.

But her “you can’t see me” taunting of Clark in the waning seconds sparked criticism that has been branded racist, since Clark, who is white, is a notorious trash-talker herself and used a similar gesture in an earlier game.

“When she did it everybody was so happy,” Reese said. “When I did it it was an issue just because of what I look like.”

Reese insisted she had “no beef” with Clark, and Clark told ESPN that she didn’t think criticism of Reese was warranted.

Clark agreed a trip to the White House should be for the champions alone.

However, the controversy continued to simmer, even after President Biden tweeted on Tuesday that he looked forward to welcoming LSU and men’s champions, the University of Connecticut Huskies, to the White House.

Asked about the snafu, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday the president and first lady are “very much looking forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers and also the University of Connecticut, the men’s basketball team, right here at the White House, continuing a long tradition.”

She would not say, however, whether LSU had accepted.

“As you know, the president put out a statement inviting them. I don’t have anything more to share on that.”

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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