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On Monday, First Lady Jill Biden publicly expressed her desire to invite the runner-up Iowa’s women’s basketball team to the White House in an unprecedented breach of protocol. The comments were met with a fury of critical responses, with some accusing the First Lady of ‘infantilizing’ women’s sports, while others pointing out the racial dynamics at play under her comments.
On Sunday, the NCAA Division I came to a close with a record-breaking performance by the LSU Tigers. The team beat Iowa Hawkeyes in a 102-85 game to decisively secure their first national title in the program’s history. The game received record ratings and attention from mainstream sports media.
On the next day, First Lady Jill Biden shared her thoughts about the game: “It was so exciting, wasn’t it? It was such a great game”, she said. In her comments, Biden also reminisced about the progress made by women’s sports as a category since sex discrimination was outlawed in 1972. “I’m old enough that I remember when we got Title IX. We fought so hard, right? We fought so hard. And look at where women’s sports have come today.”
But no part of her comments received as much attention as her express desire to invite both the winning and losing teams to the White House dinner traditionally reserved for the champions. Biden was apparently aware of the fact that her comments were unwarranted, as she begin: “I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House; we always do. So, we hope LSU will come.” To that, the 71-year-old First Lady added: “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come too, because they played such a good game.”
Neither the White House nor the Iowa team immediately replied to ESPN’s request for clarification, or whether the runner-up team will attend the event if invited.
LSU star and the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player Angel Reese was quick to respond to the pseudo-invitation by the First Lady, calling it “A JOKE 🤣🤣🤣” on Twitter, in a post apparently deleted shortly afterwards.
Reese had also received attention previously for gesturing at Caitlin Clark, alleging ‘disrespect’ at the hands of the Iowa player, and calling out media discrepancy between both their treatments. “Caitlin Clark is a hell of a player for sure, but I don’t take disrespect lightly and she disrespected Alexis [Morris].” She was referring to Clark’s giving John Cena’s “You can’t see me” hand gesture during Iowa’s Elite Eight win.
Reese is Black while Clark is of White Italian descent.
Sports journalist Andrew G. Haubner summarized everything wrong with Jill Biden’s comments as follows: “Beyond the very obvious racism at play here, this feels like a massive infantilization of women’s sports writ large from Jill Biden here.”
Another twitter user, Jamilah Lemieux pointed out that: “This is so wack, and it wouldn’t be happening if Iowa won.”