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LSU visits White House to celebrate national championship

Alexis Morris and her LSU teammates celebrate after winning the 2023 NCAA championship. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

LSU women’s basketball is taking Washington, D.C.

The Tigers are celebrating their 2023 national championship with a trip to the nation’s capital. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcomed the team to the White House for a ceremony in honor of their victory.

“You showed us — girls and boys, women and men — what it means to be a champion,” Jill Biden said. “You gave us hope and joy, a way to find that fire in ourselves, and most of all the chance to see you soar. Thank you for giving us those gifts.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, who also attended the ceremony, recalled meeting LSU stars Angel Reese, Flau’jae Johnson and Alexis Morris earlier this year.

“I understood immediately when I first met them how you all took home the trophy because you are not just a team, you’re family, you support each other on and off the court,” Harris said. “Throughout your record-breaking season, you showed the world who you are. You are leaders, you are role models, and of course you are champions.”

The ceremony paused briefly after LSU player Sa’Myah Smith appeared to faint during President Biden’s speech. Smith was checked by paramedics, and LSU coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that the rising sophomore was “fine, just a little embarrassed.”

A tradition for NCAA champions, the invitation to the White House initially caused a stir, as Jill Biden suggested extending the offer to runner-up Iowa as well. Reese in particular took issue with Biden’s comment.

“I just know if the roles were reversed, there wouldn’t be the same – if we were to lose, we would not be getting invited to the White House,” Reese said.

Biden later walked back her comment, and Reese and the Tigers accepted the invitation to celebrate its national title.

“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. I’m going to do what’s best for the team… I’m the captain,” Reese said of the decision to accept the invitation.

For Mulkey, the ceremony marked her fifth time greeting a president, as she visited the White House twice during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, once during George W. Bush’s presidency and during both Barack Obama and Donald Trump presidencies.

The last three of the visits were for national championships she won during her tenure at Baylor. The first came after she won a national championship as a player at Louisiana Tech, and the second came after she won an Olympic gold medal as a player with Team USA.

For LSU guard Jasmine Carson, this was her second time meeting a president. She and her grandmother visited with the Obamas when she was 10 years old. For most of the team, though, the White House trip was a first.

“As with any national championship trip to the White House, we’ve had the excitement and the build-up with the players — the apprehensiveness of not knowing,” said Jennifer Roberts, LSU’s director of player personnel and influence. “You see the White House. You hear about the White House. But now you’re going to the White House.”

LSU’s Washington adventure also included a tour of the U.S. Capitol, where the team accepted an American flag that flew over the building on the day of the national championship game as a gift from Louisiana’s congressional representatives.