Louisiana State University’s NCAA champion women’s basketball team visited the White House and a player collapsed during President Joe Biden’s speech.
Despite some initial uncertainty if the team would attend in reaction to First Lady Jill Biden’s insistence that the Iowa women’s team, who they defeated, should also be invited, LSU didn’t snub the Biden administration.
Biden was in the middle of congratulating the team in the East Room on Friday, when forward Sa’Myah Smith unexpectedly collapsed.
The White House’s live feed of the event abruptly cut out for around six minutes, as the freshman was tended to by medical staff.
During LSU women's basketball's celebration at the White House. FULL CLIP of Sa'Myah Smith Collapsing, watch the EYES. pic.twitter.com/gnZzZKl5RA
— Flinch Files (@FlinchFiles) May 26, 2023
She was treated and eventually carted off by wheelchair, before Biden was able to continue his speech.
“This is not the first time it has happened,” he said upon resuming. “White House guests have fainted in the past and required a check-up at a doctor’s office built into the executive mansion.”
“Folks, we witnessed history,” he said about LSU. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.
“Folks, we need to support women’s sports, not just during the championship run, for the entire year and every season.”
LSU star Angel Reese, who was named March Madness’ “Most Outstanding Player” of the Final Four, had initially called the First Lady’s suggestion that the second place NCAA team join the team during their White House event a “joke.”
“I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House, we always do. So, we hope LSU will come,” Biden said in April.
LSU Women's team gifts Joe Biden and Jill Biden jerseys during their visit to the White House 💜💛
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 26, 2023
“But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game.”
“If we lost would we be invited? That’s all I’m asking…” fellow LSU star Flau’jae Johnson questioned.
“Michelle OBAMA can we (LSU NATIONAL CHAMPS) come celebrate our win at your house?” added teammate Alexis Morris.
Angel Reese rejects First Lady Jill Biden’s apology: ‘We’ll go to the Obamas’
(📹 @IAMATHLETEpod) pic.twitter.com/QlLCeJjoXF
— Hot Freestyle (@HotFreestyle) April 5, 2023
The Dr. Jill’s press secretary walked back the remarks the next day. “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,” said Vanessa Valdivia.
“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.”
Reese was unmoved by the remarks at the time. “We made a lot of phone calls and that’s why she wants to come out and apologize.”
“But, at the same time, I don’t accept it. I’m not going to lie to you. I don’t accept the apology, because you said what you said,” Reese continued. “And I said what I said. You can’t go back on certain things that you say.”
“You felt like they should’ve came because of the sportsmanship, right? They can have that spotlight,” Reese told I Am Athlete’s “Paper Route. “We’ll go to The Obamas. We’ll see Michelle. We’ll see Barack.”
I’m was able to catch up with Sa’myah Smith after her White House visit.
She’s doing alright, just a little groggy. #LSU. pic.twitter.com/TwBe80lA2m
— Michael Cauble (@Cauble) May 26, 2023
She initially said that the team was going to “see” about heading to the White House, but she didn’t know at the time.
Two months later and all is apparently well between Reese and Jill Biden, who hugged it out after the hoops star presented her with a custom “FLOTUS” LSU jersey.
Reese told SportsCenter that what changed her mind about the visit. “In the beginning, we were hurt — it was emotional because we know how hard we worked all year for everything,” she said.
“You don’t get that experience ever, and I know my team probably wants to go for sure and my coaches are supportive of that, so I’m going to do what’s best for the team and we’ve decided we’re going to go.
“I’m a team player,” Reese concluded. “I’m going to do what’s best for the team. I’m the captain.”