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Salon
Salon
8 Apr 2023
By Andrew Jones


NextImg:Jill Biden owes the LSU women a full apology

The worst takes on Louisiana State University's (LSU) first national championship in women's basketball last weekend seemed to come from aggrieved white men on Twitter, upset over a young Black woman displaying bravado analogous to her male counterparts on the court. 

This sudden interest in women's basketball, complete with overwrought outrage about non-gentlemen's antics, started when their easily offended eyes saw Tigersstar Angel Reese, the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA's Final Four, deliver one of the most hilarious sports taunts ever to University of Iowa sensation Caitlin Clark as LSU's 102-85 victory was secured. With under a minute remaining, and Clark standing next to her at the free throw line, Reese served up to her rival the 

Flava Flav/Tony Yayo "You Can't See Me" taunt (that John Cena humbly appropriated). She followed it up by pointing to her ring finger in Clark's direction from one end of the court to the other.

Outrage ensued from the usual suspects like former respected MSNBC and ESPN anchor turned basket case Keith Olbermann, who called Reese a "f—king idiot," to Barstool Sports owner Dave Portnoy, who presides over a sports media company that has been rife with racism, misogyny and sexism with him greatly contributing to that, labeling the expressive Tigers' center "a classless piece of s--t." \Of course, they either weren't versed in women's college basketball before that title game or were engaging again in toxic white hypocrisy, since Clark's own taunting at opponents has been as synonymous with her elite game as the Iowa Hawkeyes standout's shooting has been. 

But just when their irrelevant double standard temper tantrums were slowly going to subside as the worst example for that historic women's sports event, up came someone who you would expect not to wade into the treacherous "All Lives Matters" waters — or in this instance, "All Teams Matters" waters. First Lady Jill Biden, after being in attendance for the game in Dallas,  said the next day at the Colorado state capitol in Denver that Clark and her mostly white teammates deserved the ultimate participation trophy. 

"I know we'll have the champions come to the White House, we always do, so we hope LSU will come," Biden said in a moment where she would top her husband, President Joe Biden, for gaffe of the week. "But, you know, I'm going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come too, because they played such a good game." 

One not detailed in White House tradition for sports teams would see that as just a benevolent, warm classy move by Biden, to not leave Iowa out of the celebration of the most watched women's basketball game of all time. An exemplar of good sportsmanship: there are no losers here. 

But there was one major problem with Biden's comments that garnered instant pushback and outright scorn: Only one team representing a notable sport obtains the coveted White House visit (except if 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. Coupled with being part of this country's highest political world at least since she and the current president began dating in the 1970s she is fully versed in the history that winning championship sports teams have usually been the sole group that gets the White House invite since the 1924 Washington Senators of Major League Baseball received the public RSVP from Calvin Coolidge. That's why she knew instantly that LSU would get a White House invite, like every women's basketball champion (and only the champion) has since the first, the Cheryl Miller, McGee twins-led University of Southern California, was invited in 1984 by Ronald Reagan.  

It was shocking for Biden to utter that, but not surprising considering the deep "both sides" centrism that she and her husband have been known for. Although there is a myriad of more important things in the world to be currently livid over, the reason why this resonated so swiftly, with heavy criticism from whole swaths of Black Americans pivotal to putting her and her husband in their current positions, is more than just a silly sporting matter. Biden's desperate request served as a paradigm for the subtle, insidious ways some white Americans remain subconscious, intentionally or unintentionally, with their racial bias or even outright racism. Consider this: No one asked Biden whether Iowa should come to the White House. Instead, the first lady expressed that sentiment in an unprompted fashion. She clearly was not pleased by Reese's actions of gloating in Clark's direction and felt bad for the runner-up Hawkeyes. She wanted them to feel good and even claimed that they represented sportsmanship, a hilarious assessment considering Clark's own lack of notable sporting decorum

When the First Lady's dream scenario was brought to their attention, the LSU team was obviously not pleased. Reese instantly tweeted out a "A JOKE" to the ESPN link on Biden's hopes while guard Alexis Morris wrote a request to Michelle Obama, asking, "Can we (LSU NATIONAL CHAMPS) come celebrate our win at your house?" Reese became even more peeved, saying "WE NOT COMING" on an Instagram post to the joint LSU-Iowa celebration plans of Biden. 

Seeing how the displeasure over Biden's words was rising in Black and sports circles, her press secretary, Vanessa Valdivia, provided an unconvincing statement that only made things worse, writing that Biden's " 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." 

Reese, however, was not here for any of that perceived "apology." 

"I'm not gonna lie to you, I don't accept the apology because you said what you said, I said what I said," she said in an interview with the I Am Athlete podcast. "You can't go back on certain things that 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 there. At all. 

There was no sorry, no complete regret, from Jill Biden for giving an uncommon invite that completely went against the usual standard decorum when it comes to sports team champions only earning the White House visit. There hasn't been any statement from her since on the topic and it speaks to a level of white arrogance from her to not fully acknowledge how wrong she was to give a runner-up team an equal, lofty prize. 

First Lady Biden, at her next public outing or interview, wherever that may be, needs to fully apologize to the LSU women's basketball team. Not a statement through Valdivia or White House press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre,the first Black press Secretary in American history, but her own, genuine words. Because from Reese to many Black people to even white sports commentator Skip Bayless ,who to his credit has always been very critical when he sees subtle white bias or racism in sports, many feel that if Iowa were the clear winner and not LSU, Biden wouldn't be desperately touched to invite a runner-up Tigers squad like she did the Hawkeyes. 

Until that full penitence happens from Jill Biden, this story will unfortunately linger and take more attention away from a landmark event in women's basketball, women's sports and the LSU team deserving of all the usual exclusive champion perks. 

And it will serve as the one invite that really was quite the insult.