LSU player faints during White House ceremony honoring title

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All the past drama and hurt feelings associated with LSU’s invitation to the White House seemed to be forgotten or put aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around. .

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited as well. But none of that was mentioned, as Biden touted the players for their performance and how they’ve helped advance women’s sports.

“My friends, we have witnessed history,” Biden said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It’s important.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse on stage as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in, and coach Kim Mulkey later told the crowd that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought he might pass out. She was evaluated by the LSU and White House medical staff and was later cleared to join the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once she returns to Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times as many female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men and that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded educational programs and activities.

“People, we need to support women’s sports, not just during the championship, but all year long,” Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game attended by the first lady, he caused an uproar by suggesting the Hawkeyes come to the White House as well.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said he would rather visit former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. LSU’s team is largely black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese eventually said he wouldn’t skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys with the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. They exchanged hugs.

Jill Biden also praised the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the best of the best,” he said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” added the first lady, who noted that she grew up before the passage of Title IX. “We’ve made a lot of progress and we still have a lot of work to do.”

The president added that “the way women’s sport has evolved is incredible. It’s very nice to see, as I have four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped into a wheelchair, Mulkey told the crowd that the player was fine.

“As you can see, we leave our mark wherever we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s a little embarrassed right now.”

Some past and present members of Congress and Biden aides with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House Budget Director Shalanda Young. Young is in the middle of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to avert what would be a globally calamitous US financial default if the US can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay your bills.

Biden, wearing a tie in a shade of LSU purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed out the sports on Friday by changing into a blue tie and welcoming the UConn men’s championship team for his own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the entire UConn nation,” Biden said.

Report from The Associated Press.

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