Governor threatens scholarships after LSU women miss anthem at NCAA tournament

<span>LSU coach Kim Mulkey has won four national titles as a head coach, one with the Tigers and three with the Baylor Bears.</span><span>Photograph: Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports</span>
LSU coach Kim Mulkey has won four national titles as a head coach, one with the Tigers and three with the Baylor Bears.Photograph: Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports

Louisiana’s Republican governor has called for the scholarships of college athletes who are not present for the playing of the national anthem before games to be revoked after the LSU women’s basketball team were absent from the court during the pre-game ceremonies on Monday night ahead of their eagerly anticipated NCAA tournament contest with Iowa.

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Jeff Landry, the former state attorney general backed by Donald Trump whose victory in October’s open gubernatorial primary denoted a hard-right shift in Louisiana’s politics, took to social media on Tuesday to criticize the third-seeded Tigers and their head coach, Kim Mulkey, for not being present when the Star-Spangled Banner was played before their high-profile Elite Eight showdown in Albany.

“My mother coached women’s high school basketball during the height of desegregation, no one has a greater respect for the sport and for Coach Mulkey,” Landry posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “However, above respect for that game is a deeper respect for those that serve to protect us and unite us under one flag!

“It is time that all college boards, including Regent, put a policy in place that student-athletes be present for the national anthem or risk their athletic scholarship! This is a matter of respect that all collegiate coaches should instill,” he wrote.

Louisiana State, the defending national champions, were beaten 94-87 on Monday by the top-seeded Hawkeyes, who progressed to the Final Four behind a 41-point outburst by star guard Caitlin Clark.

Mulkey, who has won four national titles as a head coach and was inducted to basketball’s Hall of Fame in 2020, said afterward that her players were undergoing their regular pre-game preparations on Monday night when the anthem was played.

“Honestly, I don’t even know when the anthem was played,” Mulkey said during the post-game press conference. “We kind of have a routine when they’re on the floor and they come off at the 12-minute mark. I don’t know, we come in and we do our pre-game stuff. I’m sorry, listen, that’s nothing intentionally done.”

Of the four teams playing in Monday’s split-site Elite Eight doubleheader at Albany’s MVP Arena and Portland’s Moda Center, the Tigers were one of three who were not on the floor for the anthem.

Landry’s broadside represented a dizzying twist for Mulkey, who has previously come under fire from left-leaning critics over her perceived traditional views, including allegations that resurfaced in a recent Washington Post profile which alleged she has ostracized former players over their sexuality, including Brittney Griner.

The episode has kicked off a furore on the right-wing corners of social media, who have branded Mulkey as ‘woke’ for her role in the apparently unintentional episode.

A spokesperson for LSU’s athletics department said that Monday’s protocol was no different than what has occurred in recent years with both the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

“Our basketball programs have not been on the court for the anthem for the last several seasons,” the school’s associate athletics director Cody Worsham said in a statement on Tuesday. “Usually the anthem is played 12 minutes before the game when the team is in the locker room doing final preparations.”