The worst criticism during Louisiana State University’s (LSU) inaugural women’s basketball national championship last weekend seemed to come from aggrieved white men on Twitter, upset by a young black woman displaying bravado analogous to his male counterparts in the field.
This sudden interest in women’s basketball, accompanied by excessive outrage at the antics of non-gentlemen, began when their easily offended eyes saw Tiger star Angel Reese, the MVP of the NCAA Final Four , delivering one of the most hilarious sports taunts ever seen at the University of Iowa sensation Caitlin Clark as LSU’s 102-85 victory was assured. With less than a minute to play, and Clark standing next to her at the free throw line, Reese served to his rival the Flava Flav/Tony Yayo taunt “You Can’t See Me” (as John Cena humbly appropriate). She continued by pointing her ring finger in Clark’s direction from across the court.
Outrage ensued from the usual suspects, like respected former MSNBC and ESPN anchor turned locker Keith Olbermann, who called out Reese. a “fucking idiot”, to Barstool Sports owner Dave Portnoy, who presides over and contributes greatly to a sports media company rife with racism, misogyny and sexism, calling the Tigers center expressive “classless bullshit.” Of course, either they weren’t familiar with women’s college basketball before this title game, or they were once again engaging in toxic white hypocrisy, ever since Clark’s speech. own taunts towards opponents were also synonymous with his elite play as was the standout shooting of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
But just when their irrelevant tantrums were slowly going to die down and become the worst example of this historic women’s sporting event, along came someone you’d expect not to wade into the treacherous waters from “All Lives Matters” – or in this case, “All Teams Matter.” First Lady Jill Biden, after attending the game in Dallas, declared the next day at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver that Clark and his mostly white teammates deserved the ultimate participation trophy.
“I know the champions will come to the White House, we always do, so we hope LSU will come,” Biden said. said at a time when she would beat out her husband, President Joe Biden, for gaffe of the week. “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe that I think Iowa should come too, because they played a really good game.”
Anyone not detailed in White House lore for sports teams would see this as simply a kind and heartwarming decision on Biden’s part, not to leave Iowa out of the basketball game celebration. most watched women’s ball of all time. An example of sportsmanship: there are no losers here.
But there was one major problem with Biden’s comments that drew immediate backlash and outright contempt: only a team representing a notable sport gets the coveted visit to the White House (unless it’s a Donald Trump White House), the champions.
Not the second place team, not the third place team, not the last place team. The Champions.
This is Biden’s third year as First Lady. In addition to being part of this country’s top political establishment at least since she and the current president began dating in the 1970s, she is well-versed in the history that championship-winning sports teams are generally the only group to receive the White House invitation since 1924. Major League Baseball’s Washington Senators received the public RSVP from Calvin Coolidge. That’s why she knew instantly that LSU would receive an invitation from the White House, as every women’s basketball champion (and only the champion) has since the first, Cheryl Miller of the University of California South led by the McGee twins, was invited in 1984 by Ronald Reagan. .
It was shocking for Biden to say this, but not surprising given the depth of “both sides” centrism that she and her husband are known for. While there are myriad more important things in the world currently sparking outrage, the reason this has resonated so quickly, with strong criticism from swathes of Black Americans essential to their current placement , she and her husband, is more than just a silly sports question. Biden’s desperate request served as a paradigm to illustrate the subtle and insidious ways in which some white Americans remain oblivious, intentionally or not, to their racial biases, if not outright racism. Consider this: No one asked Biden if Iowa should come to the White House. Instead, the first lady expressed this sentiment off the cuff. She clearly wasn’t happy with Reese’s actions gloating in Clark’s direction and felt bad for the Hawkeyes runner-up. She wanted them to feel good and even claimed they represented sportsmanship, a hilarious assessment considering Clark’s. notable lack of sporting decorum.
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When the First Lady’s dream scenario was brought to their attention, the LSU team was clearly not happy. Reese immediately tweeted a “A JOKE” at the ESPN link on Biden’s hopes while guard Alexis Morris wrote a request to Michelle Obama, ask, “Can we (LSU NATIONAL CHAMPS) come celebrate our victory at your place?” Reese became even more irritated, saying “WE ARE NOT COMING” on an Instagram post about Biden’s joint LSU-Iowa celebration plans.
Seeing how discontent over Biden’s remarks was growing in black and sports circles, his press secretary, Vanessa Valdivia, made an unconvincing statement that only made matters worse: write this “Biden’s comments in Colorado were intended to applaud the historic game and all female athletes. She looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers for their championship victory at the White House.”
Reese, however, wasn’t here for this perceived “apology.”
"I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t accept excuses because you said what you said, I said what I said," she said in an interview with the I am an athlete podcast. “You can’t take back some of the things you say.”
The saddest thing about Reese having to respond to Valdivia’s words for Biden is the fact that there was no clear apology. At all.
There was no regret, no total regret, on Jill Biden’s part for giving an unusual invitation that went completely against the usual standard decorum when it comes to champions of sports teams who don’t deserve a visit to the White House. She has since made no statement on the matter and it speaks to a level of white arrogance on her part to not fully recognize how wrong she was to give a finalist team an equal and high prize.
First Lady Biden, in her next public outing or interview, anywhere, must fully apologize to the LSU women’s basketball team. This is not a statement from Valdivia or White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first black press secretary in American history, but from her own authentic words. Because from Reese to many black people passing by white sportscaster Skip Bayless who, to his credit, has always been very critical when he sees subtle white bias or racism in sports, many believe that if Iowa were the clear winner and not LSU, Biden would not be desperately moved to invite a second Tigers team like the Hawkeyes did.
Until Jill Biden does full penance, this story will unfortunately persist and further distract from a landmark event in women’s basketball, women’s sports, and the LSU team deserving all the usual exclusive perks of champions.
And that will serve as the only invitation that was truly an insult.