WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Medical personnel were rushed into the East Room of the White House on Friday when a member of collegiate championship-winning Louisiana State University women’s basketball team fainted at an event to honor the team.
U.S. President Joe Biden called for year-round support for women’s sports when the player, who was standing in the risers behind the podium, slunk downward and was helped off the stage.
“It’s a lot of standing. I apologize,” Biden said. “It’s okay. It’s happened lots of times.”
Coach Kim Mulkey said that the player, freshman Sa’Myah Smith, was okay as personnel wheeled her out.
“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go. Sa’myah planned that,” Mulkey said.
“No, Sa’myah is fine, for those of you who are concerned. Sa’myah is fine; I’ll assure you of that… She doesn’t want to leave. She wants to stand with us but she needs to be checked out.”
The event marked a thawing of earlier tensions between the team and the administration, after first lady Jill Biden had previously suggested also inviting runners-up Iowa, a break from tradition.
Star forward Angel Reese, who averaged 23 points per game during the most recent season, had previously said she was “hurt” by the plan but was on hand on Friday to offer the first lady a hug and present her with a commemorative jersey.
Biden later welcomed the men’s champions from the University of Connecticut, who started the season unranked but put on a dominant performance in the March Madness tournament for their fifth title.
He celebrated the team for having “no quit” in them, after one member of the team played through food poisoning and the team’s Muslim members played while observing a Ramadan fast.
“Whenever the nation’s been down, what’s brought us back? Sports,” said Biden. “Thank God we’re not down yet but you guys are something else.”
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington, D.C., and Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)