Angel Reese and her LSU teammates toast their NCAA title victory with the Bidens at the White House

Angel Reese and her LSU basketball teammates visited the White House on Friday to celebrate their national championship win over Iowa, albeit after some reluctance on behalf of the Tigers top star. 

The invite to LSU became a source of controversy this year after the First Lady Jill Biden said in a speech that the defeated Iowa Hawkeyes should also come to the White House ‘because they played such a good game’ in the NCAA final on April 2. 

In recent decades, the White House has typically hosted only title winners, and Jill’s suggested departure from this tradition appeared to insult the reigning national champions, including Reese. 

A first-team All-American playfully known as Bayou Barbie for her glamorous social media profile, Reese said in April that she and her teammates would rather meet with former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle. More recently, Reese changed her mind and said she and her teammates would meet with the Bidens at the White House. 

‘Congratulations once again to the LSU Tigers!,’ said Jill, who was seen wearing a purple suit that matched the school’s color scheme. 

Jill Biden opened Friday’s festivities by congratulating the LSU Tigers on their national title win

Angel Reese shared some snaps on Instagram, where she is often referred to as 'Bayou Barbie'

Reese shares a selfie from the White House

Angel Reese shared some snaps on Instagram, where she is often referred to as ‘Bayou Barbie’

Friday’s light-hearted affair briefly seemed like an impossibility after Jill Biden suggested that Iowa should also visit the White House. 

‘A JOKE,’ she tweeted at the time, along with three rolling-on-floor-laughing emojis. 

On a podcast shortly after, Reese said her team should instead celebrate their title with Barack and Michelle Obama.

Reese said she was not inclined to accept an apology from Jill Biden for suggesting that both LSU and runner-up Iowa be invited to the White House.

‘I’m not gonna lie to you, I don’t accept the apology because of, you said what you said. I said what I said. And like, you can’t go back on certain things that you say,’ Reese told podcast hosts Brandon Marshall and Ashley Nicole Moss.

‘I mean, you felt like they should’ve came because of sportsmanship, right?’ Reese added. ‘They can have that spotlight. We’ll go to the Obamas. We’ll see Michelle. We’ll see Barack.’

Some social media commenters noted the racial dynamics involved, saying that only winners should be rewarded with a White House visit and that hosting both teams would detract from the achievement by LSU’s team, which is predominantly black. 

The Iowa team is largely white. Others noted the important role of black women in Democratic Party politics.

President Biden did not follow through on that idea, inviting only LSU and men’s national champion Connecticut, which visited the White House on Friday evening. 

Vanessa Valdivia, a spokesperson for Jill Biden, has said the first lady had meant no disrespect to LSU and that her comments were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes.

Reese, the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, later told ESPN during an interview that she would go to the White House because she wants to do ‘what’s best for the team.’

With its 102-85 triumph over the Hawkeyes, LSU’s point total was the most ever scored in a championship game by a single team. The 187 combined total also shattered the previous mark. The game also drew a television audience of 9.9 million, a record for an NCAA women’s title game.

The most memorable moment from LSU’s historic win came in the fourth quarter, when Reese appeared to taunt Iowa star Caitlin Clark with wrestler John Cena’s ‘you can’t see me’ hand gesture. Reese added insult to injury by pointing to her own finger, as if to say that’s where she will be wearing her championship ring.

LSU's Angel Reese shows Iowa star Caitlin Clark where her championship ring will be worn

LSU’s Angel Reese shows Iowa star Caitlin Clark where her championship ring will be worn 

Clark, The Associated Press Player of the Year, made a similar gesture to no one in particular during Iowa’s victory over Louisville in the Elite Eight, and while many took offense when Reese did it, the Hawkeyes guard said there was no reason for the LSU star to take criticism over the incident.

‘I don’t think Angel should be criticized at all. No matter which way it goes, she should never be criticized for what she did. I’m just one that competes – and she competed,’ Clark said on ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines, ‘ adding: ‘I think everybody knew there was going to be a little bit of trash talk in the entire tournament. It’s not just me and Angel.’

Social media was divided on Reese’s gesture, with some saying it was just part of the game and others saying Reese lacked grace in victory. Reese, who also made what appeared to be a ‘you’re too small’ gesture several times after scoring in a 79-72 semifinals victory over Virginia Tech, was unapologetic Sunday night.

‘All year, I was critiqued about who I was,’ said Reese, who is black; Clark is white. ‘I don’t fit in a box that y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. But when other people do it, y’all say nothing. So this was for the girls that look like me, that’s going to speak up on what they believe in. It’s unapologetically you.’

Clark was asked on ESPN whether there was a difference in how people think women’s players should act compared with men’s.

‘I think men have always had trash talk … and I think more and more people, as they turn on the game, they’re appreciating it for what it is,’ Clark said. ‘I’m just lucky enough that I get to play this game and have emotion and wear it on my sleeves – and so does everybody else. So, that should never be torn down, that should never be criticized because I believe that’s what makes this game so fun.’

Clark was the first to post consecutive 40-point games in an NCAA Tournament. She also said on ESPN that LSU deserves the title – ‘they played so well’ – and that she’s a ‘big fan’ of Reese.

Angel Reese  and teammates pose for selfies after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 102-85

Angel Reese  and teammates pose for selfies after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 102-85

Angel Reese

Angel Reese and Olivia Dunne attend the 2023 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue release party

Angel Reese and Olivia Dunne attend the 2023 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue release party

Reese will feature as a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model for first time, in Thursday's edition

LSU star Angel Reese’s NIL valuation has nearly quadrupled from $371,000 to $1.4million

LSU has stayed in the news since their national championship thanks to a pair of prized transfers joining the Tigers: former Louisville guard Hailey Van Lith and All-American forward Aneesah Morrow, who previously played at DePaul. 

Reese has also stayed in the news, thanks to her large social media following and appearances at several high-profile events.

Meanwhile, thanks to new NCAA rules on Name, Image, and Licensing deals (NIL), Reese is worth a reported $1.4 million after making her modeling debut in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.  

‘I’m excited and blessed to be able to have these opportunities to go out and be who I am,’ Reese told Sports Illustrated.