On Monday, the Baylor’s women’s basketball team, the Bears, became the first women’s championship team to make a solo visit to the White House during President Trump’s tenure.
Trump celebrated the Bears’ national championship with a personal reception in the Oval Office.
He praised the team and its coach, Kim Mulkey, for their 82-81 victory over Notre Dame in the NCAA title game, although it appeared the president had not watched as he asked about details over the finish even after reading prepared remarks at the Resolute Desk.
Talking about 2014 All-Met Player of the Year Chloe Jackson’s game-winning layup in the final seconds, Trump called it “a play for the ages — and I’ve heard that from a lot of people.” After noting the Fighting Irish had a chance to tie with two free throws, Trump asked Mulkey what happened. “Tell me,” he said, before being told that the Notre Dame player missed the first of two.
“There was no choke,” Trump said of the Bears, who had nearly blown a large lead.
Several women’s and men’s teams in nonrevenue sports visited together in a group event in 2017, but the past two women’s college basketball champions did not make the trip.
Although presidents have hosted winning teams dating to the Reagan administration, such visits have become more political in the Trump era. The president rescinded an invitation to the Golden State Warriors after some players said they would boycott a potential visit. Last week, the Virginia Cavaliers, who won the NCAA men’s title, announced they would not visit the White House, citing scheduling conflicts.
“I’ve been every time for every president,” Mulkey told the Associated Press this month. “It’s not a political issue for me. It’s an honor to go to the White House. I want everyone to say they went to the White House. Not many people can say that.”
During Monday’s visit, Trump noted that Baylor is located in Texas, a reliably red state.
“We do love Texas,” he said. “We’ve had some good times in Texas. They are incredible people.”
Among those at the ceremony were Reps. Bill Flores and Louie Gohmert, both Republicans from Texas, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The Bears were treated to fast food from McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s in the State Dining Room, where Trump had been scheduled to make remarks. Instead, he invited the team into the Oval Office, as he did with the Washington Capitals when they visited last month. The White House did not offer an explanation for the switch.
The team presented Trump with a white jersey with his name on the back, a Baylor hat and a signed basketball.
“Am I allowed to wear it?” Trump asked of the hat. “I’ll mess up my hair, but that’s okay; it is mine,” he added with a chuckle, before putting it on to cheers from the players.
Of the jersey, Mulkey noted that it might be too small for Trump. “Maybe Melania will wear it,” she joked.
Trump has enjoyed showing off the Oval Office to guests, and he told the players that he has had “strong, tough people start crying” when they enter the hallowed space.
“Was that Hillary?” Gohmert interjected, referring to Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2016 election.
That drew some guffaws. “That’s right,” Trump said before continuing with his remarks.