The 2023 championship rematch between Iowa and LSU in this year’s Elite Eight was a scintillating production that stockpiled praise from celebrities, athletes and fans alike, while shattering the record for the most-watched women’s college basketball game ever.

But Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry was unimpressed before a basketball even bounced Monday after LSU was not present for the national anthem, calling for a policy to be put in place that risks a student-athlete’s scholarship if the player is absent during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“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,” Gov. Landry wrote on X on Tuesday. “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.”

LSU coach Kim Mulkey said postgame that she was unaware of what time the anthem played and that her team’s routine is to head from the court into the locker room at the 12-minute mark. Iowa was present for the anthem and lined up along its foul line with all players holding hands.

“I’m sorry, listen, that’s nothing intentionally done,” Mulkey said postgame.

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South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and her team faced similar criticism in 2022 — when the Gamecocks took home the title — for not being on the floor during the national anthem for their Final Four win over Louisville. Staley explained that their absence was unintentional, calling her players “creatures of habit.”

“I think (the national anthem) was played at the 12- or 10-minute mark, and that’s just not the time that we’re out on the court because of our pregame ritual,” Staley said at the time. “If the national anthem is at 0:00, like it was today (for the national championship), we were out there standing for the national anthem.”

In college sports, it’s not required to be present for the national anthem or uncommon for one or both teams to be in their respective locker rooms during it. College football teams are not typically present for it during regular-season matchups or even bowl games. For the Big Ten college football championship between Iowa and Michigan in December, both the Hawkeyes and Wolverines didn’t appear to be on the sidelines during the playing of the national anthem at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. When Iowa football plays at home, however, it is typically on the field for the anthem.

Required reading

(Photo of American Airlines Center before the 2023 women’s NCAA Tournament championship: Ron Jenkins / Getty Images)


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