The first lady has taken steps to address the controversy stemming from an unprecedented White House invitation to both NCAA women’s basketball champions LSU and the runners-up on the University of Iowa’s team.
Jill Biden sparked outrage after she suggested that both teams be honored as part of the tradition of the president welcoming championship teams to the White House. Her comments came the day after she attended the title game in Dallas and watched LSU beat Iowa in a game that also sparked a cultural debate about trash-talking.
“I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House; we always do. So, we hope LSU will come,” ESPN reported that first lady Biden said on Monday. “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come too, because they played such a good game.”
Typically only the victorious team is invited to the White House.
The backlash was swift, with LSU’s star player Angel Reese notably calling Biden’s proposition “A JOKE.”
Reese’s reaction was particularly significant because she was the subject of mainstream media scrutiny for gesturing toward Iowa’s star player, Caitlin Clark, in the final moments of Monday night’s game.
The gesture in question was one that Clark did to the University of Louisville’s team days earlier. In that instance, Clark, who is white, was widely applauded for her gamesmanship. But when Reese, who is Black did the same gesture toward Clark, she was widely condemned by what seemed to be a contingency of angry white men.
In one instance, political commentator Keith Olbermann called Reese, who is a 20-year-old sophomore, a “f*cking idiot.” (Olbermann later walked back his name-calling after he admitted he didn’t know Clark did the same thing, but his knee-jerk reaction to target Reese is telling.)
Barstool Sports owner Dave Portnoy took to Twitter to call Reese a “classless piece of sh*t.”
There are many other reactions along those same lines.
Neither of those men, however, had anything bad to say about Clark when she did the same thing to Louisville.
Reese made it clear during the post-game press conference that she understood the racial dynamics of the criticism.
“All year, I was critiqued about who I was,” Reese said Sunday night. “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.”
It was in that context that Biden on Monday appeared to extend an invitation to both LSU and Iowa basketball players to the White House.
On Tuesday, Biden sought to clarify her comments through a spokesperson.
“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,” Vanessa Valdivia, Biden’s press secretary, tweeted Tuesday morning.
Valdivia added in a subsequent tweet: “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.”
As Deadspin’s Carron Phillips astutely pointed out, “classless” in this case is just a code word for “Black”:
From Reese to Sha’Carri Richardson and Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, white people have a long history of proving that they hate it when Black women are unapologetic when it comes to dominating in sports. And whenever that’s the case, there’s some made-up outrage about their behavior. To them, white champions get to celebrate while the Black ones should always “act like they’ve been there before,” even if they haven’t. That flawed ideology is intensified when it comes to Black women — the unfair weight of being a double minority is a heavy burden.
This is America.
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