Women's National Champion Basketball Team Spurns White House Invitation

On Thursday night, South Carolina women’s coach Dawn Staley, whose team won the national championship last year, announced her team would not attend Collegiate National Champions Day on Friday at the White House. Staley said, “We did hear from the White House about attending tomorrow’s event, but we will not be able to attend. As I’ve been saying since our practices for this season started, all of our focus is on the season ahead. The only invitation we are thinking about is to the 2018 NCAA Tournament.”

Staley has been publicly discussing the issue since last April; after South Carolina defeated Mississippi State in last April’s national championship game, Staley, a former three-time Olympic gold medalist and flag bearer at the 2004 Games, told the Associated Press (AP), “It’s what national champions do. We’ll go to the White House.”

But by September the Gamecocks had still not received an invitation. Staley told AP, noting that every national champion since 1983 had visited the White House, “We haven’t gotten an invitation yet and that in itself speaks volumes. We won before those other teams won their championships. I don’t know what else has to happen.” She implied there were other issues besides the lack of an invitation, saying, “Some things transpired over the last few months. I haven’t talked to anyone about it. I got bigger fish to fry than worry about an invitation.”

In October, former South Carolina governor and current United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s office said the White House would invite the team; Staley stated, “Here’s my take, and I’m not going to discuss the White House anymore. As far as I’m concerned, I’m over the White House invitation. The only invitation I would like is an invitation to get into the NCAA tournament in March. Other than that, I’m going to focus on my team.”

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