Iowa guard Caitlin Clark said LSU forward Angel Reese doesn't deserve criticism for any actions from Sunday's women's basketball national championship game and that only the Tigers should visit the White House because "that's for LSU."
Clark, appearing on "SportsCenter" on Tuesday after being announced as the winner of the Wooden Award, was asked by ESPN's Jeremy Schaap about the controversy surrounding Reese making a "you can't see me" gesture and pointing to her ring finger during the closing moments of the championship game, all of it seemingly directed at Clark.
"I don't think Angel should be criticized at all," said Clark, who had made the same gesture in the regional final. "I'm just one that competes, and she competed. I think everybody knew there was going to be a little trash talk in the entire tournament. It's not just me and Angel.
"We're all competitive. We all show our emotions in a different way. You know, Angel is a tremendous, tremendous player. I have nothing but respect for her. I love her game -- the way she rebounds the ball, scores the ball, is absolutely incredible. I'm a big fan of her and even the entire LSU team. They played an amazing game."
Clark, who swept the national player of the year awards, and the Hawkeyes lost to LSU 102-85 in the NCAA championship game Sunday in Dallas.
First lady Jill Biden, who attended the game, on Monday said, "I know we'll have the champions come to the White House," before saying, "Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game."
Reese took to social media to post a link to the story with Biden's suggestion that both teams visit the White House along with the comment, "A JOKE" and three laughing emojis.
Biden's press secretary on Tuesday tweeted that the First Lady's comments "were intended to applaud the historic game and all women athletes" and that she "looks forward to celebrating the LSU Tigers on their championship win." Also Tuesday morning, President Joe Biden tweeted that he's looking forward to welcoming LSU to the White House and did not mention Iowa.
"That's for LSU," Clark told "SportsCenter" on Tuesday. "... They should enjoy every single second of being the champion. I think that's theirs to do.
"I don't think runner-ups usually go to the White House. LSU should enjoy that moment for them. And congratulations, obviously; they deserve to go there. Maybe I could go to the White House [someday] on different terms."
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder agreed, instead issuing an open invitation for Jill Biden to visit the Hawkeyes' program.
I gratefully acknowledge the First Lady's sentiments, but a day at the White House should belong solely to the champion, LSU and Coach Mulkey. We would welcome the First Lady and President to come to Iowa's "House" - Carver Hawkeye Arena - any time!— Lisa Bluder (@LisaBluder) April 4, 2023
Clark reiterated what she said after Sunday's game -- that she really didn't notice what Reese was doing at the end of the game because she was thinking about her own team.
"I haven't been on social media a ton since we lost," Clark told "SportsCenter." "But I think the biggest thing is, it was a competitive, super, super fun game. That's what's going to bring more people to our game. I think the viewership speaks for itself.
"I'm just lucky enough that I get to play this game and have emotion and wear it on my sleeve, and so does everybody else. So that should never be torn down. That should never be criticized because I believe that's what makes this game so fun. That's what draws people to this game. That's how I'm going to continue to play. That's how every girl should continue to play."
Sunday's final drew an estimated average audience of 9.9 million viewers that peaked at 12.6 million. It was the most viewed NCAA women's basketball game on record and the most viewed college event of any kind on ESPN+. It was the first women's NCAA final for both LSU and Iowa.
"It's honestly probably pretty hard for me to wrap my head around it," Clark said. "It will probably take me a few weeks to reflect on the whole year. Just the last month in general has been kind of a wild whirlwind, and I'm lucky to be a part of it.
"I just want to inspire young boys and young girls to be able to dream and do the same things that I have done. I was just that young girl. I looked up to WNBA players, NBA players, college athletes, even other pro sport athletes. All you have to do is dream, work really hard and be surrounded by really, really good people that believe in you, too."