WASHINGTON – The LSU women’s basketball team, whose national championship run is credited with invigorating the sport, began a triumphal tour of the nation’s capital Thursday with a fête by the legislative branch of the federal government, including a rare appearance on the floor of the U.S. House.
On Friday, the team will head a mile down Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate their 2022-2023 National Collegiate Athletics Association championship season with the head of the executive branch, President Joe Biden.
“This has been really crazy,” LSU forward LaDazhia Williams said about the hubbub surrounding the April 2 defeat of the heavily favored Iowa Hawkeyes by a score of 102-85. The game, LSU’s first championship win, drew a television audience of 9.9 million – a record for an NCAA women’s game – and more than the 9.4 million the men’s championship contest attracted.
Williams’ only other trip to D.C. was to play in a high school tournament, she said – though back then, she didn’t have a chance to see the sights. This time around, she and the rest of the team are receiving VIP treatment.
The House delegation laid out a spread that included fried chicken nuggets and pizza. The team ate together and was repeatedly congratulated by lawmakers, many bedecked in purple and gold, and by LSU board members. Many well-wishers stopped to take selfies with the players.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, presented Coach Kim Mulkey with the American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol the day of the team’s championship game. He explained that after lunch the team would tour the Capitol, which he refers to as a living history museum, and end up on the floor of the U.S. House, which is considered a rare honor – more often bestowed on heads of state rather than sports teams, even championship ones.
“It’s the least we can do for them,” Scalise said
The tour, much of which was conducted by Republican Congressman Garret Graves, whose district includes most the LSU’s Baton Rouge campus, included the usual historic spots, such as the rotunda, the National Statuary Hall and the Lincoln Room.
LSU alumni Scalise and U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Benton were there to celebrate the team, as were U.S. Reps. Julia Letlow, R-Start, and Troy Carter, whose New Orleans to Baton Rouge 2nd Congressional District goes right up to the north gates of the Baton Rouge campus.
“This LSU women’s basketball team exemplifies the true Louisiana spirit of resilience,” Carter said. “They never counted themselves out or listened to naysayers, they worked hard, and they triumphed. Their teamwork, unity, and drive are remarkable.”
Carter is hosting a cocktail party and special night tour for the team members, coaches, LSU administrators and supervisors who accompanied the team on a plane chartered by the school. The entourage is staying a hotel a couple of blocks from the White House.
Beginning at 1 p.m. CST, President Biden, first lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will greet the LSU team in the East Room of the White House.
Williams said the team is excited to meet and shake hands with the Bidens despite a kerfuffle when Jill Biden, enthused by how much buzz the NCAA championship game had created for women’s sports, suggested the White House also invite the losing Iowa Buckeyes.
But that’s not the tradition, and some members of the LSU team balked. The first lady apologized and walked back the invitation to Iowa.
The University of Connecticut men’s basketball team, who won the men’s NCAA championship, will attend a separate ceremony on Friday. The Huskie’s beat San Diego State 76-59 in April to secure its fifth national title.
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