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Nearly two months after winning its first national championship, the LSU women’s basketball team took the traditional visit to the White House on Friday – a celebratory afternoon that was briefly interrupted by a scary moment, when an LSU player fainted on the podium.
Forward Sa’Myah Smith, a rising sophomore, collapsed midway through congratulatory remarks from President Joe Biden in the East Room and received medical attention before being helped out of the room in a wheelchair.
USA Today reported LSU coach Kim Mulkey told the gathered crowd that Smith was OK and wanted to stay with the team but needed to be leave to be further evaluated by doctors.
The incident temporarily halted what was otherwise a joyous afternoon for the Tigers, and the star-studded political leaders that assembled to meet them, including President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and each of their spouses.
The afternoon featured LSU star Angel Reese handing a commemorative jersey to Dr. Jill Biden, posing for a photo and giving her a hug – a coda to the public back-and-forth between them that garnered headlines last month.
After attending the Tigers’ 102-85 victory over Iowa in the national title game, the First Lady made an offhand suggestion that her husband should extend White House visits to both teams “because they played such a good game.” The comment was likely meant to be a compliment for Iowa, but it prompted backlash from the Tigers and Reese in particular. She referred to Biden’s suggestion as “A JOKE.”
“I just know if the roles were reversed, it wouldn’t be the same,” Reese said during an appearance on the “I Am Athlete” podcast a few days later, after Biden’s press secretary tried to walk back her comments.
“You can’t go back on certain things that you say. You felt that they should have came because of ‘sportsmanship,’ right? (Iowa) can have that spotlight; we’ll go to the Obamas. We’ll see Michelle. We’ll see Barack.”
By the end of the week, LSU had confirmed that its women’s basketball team would visit the White House, if invited. And Reese said on ESPN that she would join her teammates.
“I’m a team player,” Reese said. “I’m going to do what’s best for the team, and I’m the captain. I know the team would love it.”
The national champion UConn men’s basketball team were also honored at the White House.
President Joe Biden honored the 2023 NCAA National Championship UConn Huskies.
This was the fifth trip to the White House for the UConn men’s program
The 1999 Huskies were honored by President Bill Clinton, the 2004 Huskies were honored by President George W. Bush, and President Barack Obama honored UConn in both 2011 and 2014.
President Joe Biden welcomed the team to the East Room of the White House in front of an audience of UConn family, friends and Connecticut legislators from both Washington, D.C., and Connecticut.
“One of the premier programs in the country you all have, and that’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact,” the President said. “Thirty-six NCAA Tournaments, six Final Fours, five national titles — ’99, 2004, 2011, 2014, and this year. Not bad, guys.”
President Biden recounted the Huskies’ magical season, from the 14-0 start, to a tough January stretch with six losses in eight games, to 12 wins in their final 13 games, including six straight wins in the NCAA Tournament, all by double digits,
“This team has proven that there’s no quit in UConn,” President Biden said. “Just like there’s no quit in America. None. There’s nothing we can’t do when we believe we can do it if we do it together.”
President Biden then relinquished the podium as he introduced UConn Coach Dan Hurley.
“I think it’s one of the greatest honors in team sports,” Hurley said. “Post winning the national championship, you cut down the nets, which is symbolic and the next think that hits you, when you go into the locker room – I think I turned to the assistant coaches and I said, ‘I think we’re going to the White House.’ It’s such a special experience, one that makes all the sacrifices and all the struggles – it makes it all worth it. It’s something none of us will ever forget.”
Shortly after Biden welcomed both championship teams, he was off to Camp David for Memorial Day weekend.