President Joe Biden on Friday called Angel Reese to congratulate her on Louisiana State University winning the NCAA women’s basketball championship, days after the first lady sparked criticism for suggesting that both LSU and the runners-up should be invited to the White House.
The White House said in a statement that Biden spoke with Reese, the team's star player, “to congratulate her on LSU’s historic season and championship win." In a separate call, the president spoke with LSU Head Coach Kim Mulkey, whose team defeated the University of Iowa Hawkeyes to win the tournament.
Although presidents often make a congratulatory call to the winning team’s coach, it’s unusual to reach out to one of the players.
Reese, who is Black, drew attention during Sunday’s game when she made a hand gesture at Iowa player Caitlin Clark, who is white, that implied that her team would win the basketball title.
Some onlookers called the behavior “classless,” while others highlighted an absence of outrage when Clark made the same gesture at Reese during an earlier match.
Reese was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, and Clark was named Naismith Player of the Year.
A day after the championship game, Jill Biden broke with tradition by suggesting that both teams should be invited to visit the White House “because they played such a good game.”
“A JOKE,” Reese tweeted in response to the first lady's comments.
“If we were to lose we would not be getting invited to the White House,” Reese said during an interview on the sports show “I Am Athlete.” “They can have that spotlight. We’ll go to the Obamas.’ We’ll see Michelle. We’ll see Barack.”
President Biden on Friday invited LSU to the White House, but a specific date for the visit hasn't been set.
The president also left a message for University of Connecticut Men’s Basketball Head Coach Dan Hurley to congratulate the team on its championship and invite them to the White House.