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  • Lacrystal Parker

Angel Reese, Jill Biden embrace as LSU is honored at the White House

Angel Reese, Jill Biden embrace as LSU is honored at the White House© Elizabeth Frantz/For The Washington Post

Midway through the ceremony, an LSU player standing among her teammates behind the president collapsed onstage. Biden paused his remarks for several minutes while the player, identified later by Mulkey as freshman forward Sa’Myah Smith, received prompt attention. Biden told the crowd, “everything’s okay,” and Mulkey later said Smith was “fine.” Smith was taken out of the East Room in a wheelchair, according to the White House pool report. After the event resumed, LSU co-captains Emily Ward and Reese presented the president and first lady with No. 46 LSU jerseys. They shared hugs and posed for photos.

Early last month, there appeared to be some uncertainty as to whether such a moment would materialize. After LSU defeated Iowa, the first lady, who attended the game in Dallas, said she would like Iowa to come to Washington for the traditional White House visit alongside the Tigers. “I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House; we always do, so we hope LSU will come,” Biden said during remarks at the Colorado Capitol in Denver the morning after the game. “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game.” Reese quickly criticized the comment. She called the idea “A JOKE” on Twitter, and Vanessa Valdivia, the first lady’s press secretary and special assistant to President Biden, tweeted a clarification a day after Jill Biden’s remarks.

“The first lady loved watching the NCAA women’s basketball championship game alongside young student-athletes and admires how far women have advanced in sports since the passing of Title IX,” Valdivia’s tweet read. “Her 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.”

In the ensuing days, Reese said in interviews she felt hurt by the comment and would rather meet a different president and first lady. “We’ll go to the Obamas. We’ll see Michelle. We’ll see Barack,” she told the podcast “Paper Route.” President Biden, who made congratulatory phone calls to the coaches of the men’s and women’s champions, also dialed Reese, who ultimately said she would accept a White House invitation. On Friday, the president joked that the team, which has reloaded this offseason, would be back in the East Room next year.

“I’m going to turn this over to you,” President Biden said as he prepared to introduce Mulkey to der brief remarks. “Again, I want to congratulate you. I assume I’ll be seeing you next year and [the] next year.”

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