1 of 6 | LSU Tigers star Angel Reese (R) waves bye after the 2023 NCAA Division I women's basketball finale Sunday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI | License Photo
April 7 (UPI) -- The LSU women's basketball team will accept an invitation to the White House after beating Iowa in the national title game, contradicting a statement by star player Angel Reese that the Tigers would not visit.
LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette told CNN, USA Today and TMZ on Thursday that the Tigers "certainly" would accept the invitation. Reese said Friday morning on ESPN that she will go with her Tigers teammates to Washington.
"I'm a team player," Reese said on SportsCenter. "I'm going to do what's best for the team. I'm a captain. I know the team would love it."
The Tigers beat Iowa 102-85 on Sunday for their first women's basketball title. First lady Jill Biden told a crowd Monday in Denver that she knew the Tigers would go to the White House, but she also would tell President Joe Biden that she thinks "Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game."
"Winners and losers, that's good sportsmanship," Jill Biden said.
Reese, who totaled 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the win, initially intimated her disagreement with Biden's idea to invite both teams by tweeting that it was a "joke."
Jill Biden's press secretary, Vanessa Valdivia, appeared to walk back on her offer to invite both teams with a message posted Tuesday on Twitter. Joe Biden also tweeted Tuesday that only the Tigers and the champion UConn men's team would be invited.
"Her comments in Colorado were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes," Valdivia tweeted. "She looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers on their championship win at the White House."
The tradition of inviting championship teams to the White House started decades ago, and has not included runner-up finishers.
Reese wrote "we're not coming, period" earlier this week on the Shade Room's Instagram account. She later said, "We'll see," on I Am Athlete, when asked if she would visit the White House.
"I just know if the roles were reversed it wouldn't be the same," Reese said on I Am Athlete. "If we were to lose, we would not be invited to the White House."
The NCAA tournament's Most Outstanding Player went on to add that she didn't "accept" the first lady's "apology.
"I don't accept the apology because you said what you said," Reese said. "You can't go back on certain things that you say. ... They [Iowa] can have that spotlight. We'll go to the Obamas.' We'll go see Michelle. We'll see Barack."
Reese said the Tigers also declined an offer for Jill Biden to visit their locker room before the title game. She cited President Joe Biden's bracket, which chose Villanova to win the championship.
"I think he said we were going to lose to Michigan or something," Reese told I Am Athlete.
Reese told ESPN on Friday that Jill Biden's comments initially "hurt" the Tigers.
"At the beginning we were hurt," Reese said. "It was emotional for us because we know how hard we worked all year for everything. That hurt us in the moment.
"Just going back on it, you don't get that experience, ever. Being able to go back, I know my team wants to go and my coach is supportive of that. ... I think we will all come together and it will be good."
Record TV viewership -- likely boosted by the attraction of Reese and Iowa's Caitlin Clark -- two of the top players in women's basketball -- was reported after the Tigers beat the Hawkeyes. The matchup was the most-viewed women's basketball game on record, according to ESPN and Nielsen. Nearly 9.9 million people watched on ESPN. Viewership was up 103% compared to last year.
Reese taunted Clark with a hand gesture at the end of the game and was later criticized for that move, even though Clark using a similar gesture earlier in the tournament.
Reese later said she has no personal rift with Clark. Clark told ESPN earlier this week that she didn't think Reese should receive "any criticism" for her gesture. She also said she didn't see the gesture.
Reese said her follower counts on Instagram and TikTok have eclipsed 1 million since the title game.
LSU held a parade Wednesday in Baton Rouge to celebrate the program's first title.
The LSU Tigers celebrate their 2023 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship after beating the Iowa Hawkeyes 102-85 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on April 2, 2023. Photo by Ian Halperin/UPI | License Photo