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Vice President Harris booed by crowd at basketball game

By Ben Marquis
|
March 17, 2023

The NCAA March Madness basketball tournament kicked off in earnest Thursday and one of the featured matchups of the day was 1-seed Kansas University facing off against 16-seed Howard University.

Vice President Kamala Harris, an alumnus of Howard, was in attendance at that game played in Des Moines, Iowa, and was reportedly booed loudly by the crowd when her presence there was made known, according to the Daily Mail.

The in-person support from Harris for her alma mater was not sufficient to propel them to victory, however, as the Bisons fell to the Jayhawks by a lopsided score of 96-68.

Booed by the crowd

The Daily Mail reported that at one point during the game, Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who were in a suite in the Wells Fargo Arena, were displayed on the facility's Jumbotron big screen for all of the crowd to see.

Per the Associated Press, the boos from the crowd "outweighed the applause" when the VP and her husband were shown.

The outlet suggested that the hostile reception for Harris could have been due to the fact that a majority of the crowd were from Kansas and Iowa, both of which are Republican-led states with majorities that voted against President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

In fact, the Daily Mail pointed out that Kansas voted 56-41 percent in favor of former President Donald Trump, while Iowa voters similarly supported the former president's unsuccessful re-election bid by a margin of 53-45 percent.

The booing for VP Harris was also separately reported by Politico's Playbook, which noted that her attendance in support of Howard had been unannounced prior to the game.

According to a New York Times reporter who was the print pooler for Harris' trip, they wrote that the "crowd seemed slightly delayed in realizing that it was indeed the Vice President on the Jumbotron. After a couple seconds the fans erupted in a mix of applause and some boos. Your pooler heard loud cheers coming from seats near Howard’s bench."

Harris praises Howard, other HBCUs

The Daily Mail reported that VP Harris was also briefly interviewed mid-game by a reporter for TBS, the network airing the game, during which she said of her alma mater, "they are a tough time, they work hard, they are so disciplined, and it is a joy to watch them here in March Madness."

"And Howard University, I ran for my first office as freshman class representative and have always been part of the Howard community," she continued. "And I'm sure that everyone who has a team understands what it means and the joy and the commitment that we have in the traditions and the loyalty to your team."

Harris also highlighted the fact that Howard is one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and called for more funding and investment in such institutions to help bolster resources for their athletic departments as well as educational opportunities for students more broadly.

Harris tries to encourage team following loss

After the game concluded, VP Harris went down to the Howard locker room to give a sort of post-game pep talk to the dejected players who had just suffered a devastating loss in only the third trip ever for the school to the NCAA's "Big Dance."

She praised their hard work and determination throughout the season and encouraged them to keep a positive attitude despite the bitter sting of defeat, and even unofficially invited the players and team staff to "play hooky" and visit the White House for a guided tour in the future.

"You put everything you had into the game, and you know that's what it's about, right? Until the last minute, you guys did that. You didn't stop until the last second, you did not stop. And that is so inspiring," Harris said. "So you keep playing with chin up and shoulders back because you showed the world who Bison are. I mean, literally, what you have done is in historic proportion. I was at Howard back in the day, where we were just happy that there was a game, much less getting to this place."

The response from the team to the speech was tepid, at best, and Fox News reported that the video of Harris' remarks to the disappointed players was widely panned on social media.

Some commenters described the VP's speech as being "cringe" while others argued that it was undeserved additional "punishment" on top of losing for the players to suffer.