Vanderbilt women’s basketball coach Stephanie White said it was a “slap in the face” that President Donald Trump had not invited the South Carolina national title team to the White House.
South Carolina is the first women's basketball national championship team not to be invited to the White House since 1983, which caused frustration among SEC women's basketball coaches at SEC Basketball Media Days on Thursday.
"Our coaches in our league stand up for what’s right," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "The fact that they can speak out on it, it’s a great thing. It’s what America is all about, being able to exercise your First Amendment right."
Staley said her team, which won the NCAA title in April, still has not been invited to the White House.
"What I am most looking forward to is getting an invitation to the NCAA tournament in 2018," Staley said. "That's more important."
SEC coaches know White House
Numerous current SEC coaches have been to the White House as NCAA and WNBA champions before, and they believe South Carolina should have the same opportunity.
“From someone who has had that experience and understanding what that experience means and for Dawn and their team, it’s kind of (a) slap in the face," White said.
White went to the White House to see Bill Clinton as a national champion player at Purdue and to visit Barack Obama as an assistant coach for the WNBA champion Indiana Fever.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick was an assistant coach on eight Lady Vols national title teams that went to the White House between 1987 and 2008 to see every president from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.
"We enjoyed the White House," Warlick said. "I hope that if Dawn wants to go and take her team, I hope she gets that opportunity. It's a special time."
LSU coach Nikki Fargas went to the White House as a four-time national champion with the Tennessee Lady Vols – in 1991 as a player and in 1998, 2007 and 2008 as an assistant coach.
"They should be given the opportunity to (visit the White House)," Fargas said. "It's something that every team before them has been able to do. Why now? Change in leadership? I don't know."
When Fargas went as a Tennessee player in 1991, the men's and women's national champion teams visited the White House together. So she was there to see President George H. W. Bush with the Duke team that featured Christian Laettner and Grant Hill.
"To share that moment with the men's (national champion) team, that was pretty special," Fargas said.
'It bothers me for them'
White was asked whether she thought South Carolina should get an invitation, as she did twice in her basketball career.
“It bothers me for them,” White said. “I think when you’re inviting every other champion, it’s a slap in the face. It bothers me for them because they deserve that opportunity, if that opportunity is presented to everyone else."
White House invitations and visits for championship teams have been unpredictable since Trump took office. Clemson football visited in June. North Carolina men's basketball was invited but did not visit because of scheduling conflicts.
The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots visited Trump, and so did the World Series champion Chicago Cubs. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins went to the White House last week. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors were initially invited. But after star Steph Curry said he wouldn't go, the White House rescinded the invitation.