LSU alumnus and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal has expressed doubts about first lady Jill Biden’s motivations for inviting the Iowa women’s basketball team to the White House.
Biden drew anger this month when he suggested that the Hawkeyes should also be invited to the White House along with the national champion LSU Tigers as part of the tradition of sports champions being recognized by the president for their achievements.
LSU handily defeated Iowa in the national title game thanks to a dominating performance from Angel Reese, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Caitlin Clark, who set the basketball world on fire during the tournament, put in a valiant effort, but Iowa was outclassed in the end.
Biden, who was at the game, said Monday after the game that she would suggest to her husband, President Joe Biden, that Iowa go to the White House as well.
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Reese responded with laughing emojis and called her suggestion «A JOKE.» She even speculated that LSU would not visit the White House after the comment.
As the basketball world weighed in on the comments, O’Neal suggested that Biden’s invitation was related to race: Reese is black and Clark is white.
He and «The Big Podcast» co-host Nischelle Turner spoke on the subject.
«Even though we know she doesn’t make the decision, that caused quite a stir. What did you think about that? Because, you know, we’re in this era of participation trophies,» Turner said.
O’Neal responded, «No, but that’s not what it’s about. That’s not what it’s about. I want people to use their imagination. You know what it’s about. I’m not going to mention it. You know what?» it was about, right?»
Turner said «we can tell,» adding that the matter became a «racial issue.»
«It became an all black girls team beating an all white girls team. That’s what it became,» she said.
O’Neal further explained his point.
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«So in my story of going to the White House and all the champions going to the White House, we never mentioned the second team, right?» he said. «But the fact that it was that against that, and the other [team] that lost, that’s when they wanted to make it a participation: ‘Oh, they lost, but they were there and all that'».
O’Neal and co-host Spice Adams agreed that if Iowa had won, LSU wouldn’t have even been a thought on Biden’s mind.
«Everyone counted their chicks before they hatched,» O’Neal said. «Let me explain why. Iowa’s championship game wasn’t that game; Iowa’s championship game was when they beat South Carolina.»
«The almighty black girls team is undefeated, who was going to beat them, and they beat them. So when they beat them, they were happy, and then when LSU came up, they thought they were going to, you know, run us. But we had too many dogs.»
O’Neal also declared Reese the best athlete to come out of LSU sports.
Vanessa Valdivia, a spokeswoman for Jill Biden, tweeted that the first lady meant no disrespect to the Tigers.
“His comments in Colorado were intended to applaud the historic game and all female athletes,” she wrote. «She looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers for their championship win at the White House.»
Despite all the controversy, Reese said she would join his team on a visit to the White House.
«At first we were hurt, it was emotional because we know how hard we work all year for everything,» Reese said Friday, according to ESPN. «You don’t get that experience [to go to the White House] never… and I know my team probably wants to go safely and my coaches support me, so I’ll do what’s best for the team, and we’ve decided we’re going to go.»
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«I’m a team player. I’m going to do what’s best for the team… I’m the captain.»