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The crowd in the East Room of the White House seemed to hold its breath as Angel Reese walked past her teammates toward a mahogany table where two Louisiana State University basketball jerseys were stacked.

Which jersey will LSU’s women’s team star Reese choose to wear? Will she get a jersey for President Biden, or will she choose the jersey for First Lady Jill Biden, who was publicly debated for days after leading the Lady Tigers to their first national championship?

Reese held up his white shirt like a banner toward the room. On the back is “FLOTUS,” a large purple “46” embroidered in yellow stitching.

Applause gave way to a collective “awww” as Reese, a taller than usual 6-foot-3 in a pair of heels, bent halfway to hug the 5-foot-5 Jill.

For a sports-loving first lady who found herself embroiled in petty political squabbles, Reese’s gesture was meaningful help.

The First Lady made a technical error when she pointed this out last month The Iowa Hawkeyes, who LSU soundly beat in the title game, still won an invitation to the White House. “I know the champs come to the White House, we always do,” she said in neutral comments after the game. So, hopefully LSU will come. But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe that Iowa should come because they had a good game. Rees, who received the tournament’s most outstanding player honor, declined The first lady’s eagerness to reward both parties. “Just kidding,” Reese He tweeted. In response to Biden’s suggestion.

Jill Biden on women’s basketball and its endless decline

The Lady Tigers were wary of the Biden White House even before the first lady’s postgame gaffe. President Biden’s March Madness bracket didn’t honor the underdog’s abilities, which led to LSU turning down Jill Biden’s request to visit their locker room before the championship game, Reese said. (“We didn’t even put him in the bracket to get out of Baton Rouge,” she said.) There was also the suggestion that Iowa, a predominantly white team, received better media coverage than LSU, which was predominantly black. Group – Reece’s criticism in particular is that one of her white Iowa opponents used the same taunting gesture she had used in the previous game. In this situation, the sudden proposal of the First Lady to honor the two groups worsened the current degradation. “If we were going to lose, we wouldn’t be invited to the White House,” Race said later on the podcast.

The White House Get back on the defensive quickly. A spokeswoman for the first lady said Biden’s comments “were to honor the historic game” and “recognize how much progress women have made in sports since the passage of Title IX.” On Friday of that week, President Biden took the unusual step of calling Reese individually to congratulate her on her victory. Reese eventually agreed to attend the ceremony — but not before digging deep. “We’re going to the Obamas,” she said on the podcast. “I see Michelle. I see Barack.

Confusing! But it’s not unprecedented. Recently, the Obamas have become a haven for sports champions who are not impressed by the latest occupants of the White House. The reception for America’s sports champions has been especially exciting during Donald Trump’s presidency. Few groups have accepted Trump’s invitation to celebrate with him. Some have not received invitations, others have had their invitations cancelled. (Remembering that the 2017 Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles changed their event to a “Celebrate America” ​​party on the White House lawn after some players criticized the president for kneeling during the national anthem.) The Golden State Warriors, two-time NBA champions during Trump’s presidency, are at the White House. They turned down opportunities to celebrate and met with Obama instead.

The 44th president He spent most of his high school hoops career as a bench warmer, but he also played pickup games with the NBA’s biggest stars, including for his 50th birthday. Magic Johnson, LeBron James and Chris Paul. (Not that some athletes haven’t skipped it: Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Matt Birk refused to join his team in celebrating the 2013 Super Bowl victory in protest of Obama’s stance on abortion rights; Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, a staunch Tea Party conservative, declined the team’s 2012 Stanley Cup tour ).

Championship celebrations are undefeated.

Political patina under Biden, but that’s because the politics of the players suit him better. When the Milwaukee Bucks came to the White House to celebrate winning the 2021 NBA championship, for example, Biden thanked them for prompting the league’s shutdown in protest of the 2020 police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Golden State Warriors held a roundtable on gun violence, a pet issue of head coach Steve Kerr during their championship tour earlier this year. Many professional and college sports teams were not invited to celebrate their championship wins, according to Politico.

But despite everything, lady tigers were here. The First Lady spoke first, approaching the lecture. “I continue to wonder how far women’s sports have come,” said Jill Biden, echoing comments she made after her first faux pas. “Watching it, I felt the history of that time – the women who dared to be fast and furious before you, who ignored the critics and just played.

She did not refer to her earlier comments or to Reese’s criticism; “I’ve seen the best in this class,” she said of the team, instead crediting Reese with breaking major records.

Vice President Harris praised the players for how they conducted themselves on and off the court. “You represent your teammates, your school and your community with honor and respect,” she said. “You have shown who you are to the world. You are leaders, you are role models.

Reese stood square to the crowd in the front row among her teammates, who rose like a church choir. She wore a tight smile and gave a polite golf clap on every line of applause, showing great enthusiasm when the president thanked her for improving ticket prices. “The price of tickets has increased 10 times,” he said. And more than men’s games.

The Only Dramatic Moment: When one of LSU’s freshmen hit the floor, collapsing on her teammates and falling to the podium. “Everywhere we go, we leave our mark,” LSU head coach Kim Mulkey said before confirming the player would be fine. (A few EMTs rolled into the White House stretch 20 minutes after the ceremony.)

Near the end of his speech, President Biden lamented that 95 percent of sports stories are still written about male athletes. “But that’s not the case here — not with this team,” he said with a laugh. Reese gave a knowing smile as a wave of silent snickers carried through the room.