For the first time since Barack Obama was in office, a professional basketball team has entered the White House.
The WNBA champion Seattle Storm met with President Joe Biden on Monday during their East Coast road trip, with stars Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, head coach Noelle Quinn, majority team owners Ginny Gilder, Lisa Brummel and Dawn Trudeau among the visiting party, per The Seattle Times.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert was also reportedly in attendance.
Activities included the traditional jersey presentation to the president, a group selfie and Biden lamenting Stewart's choice of college:
"Breanna is from Syracuse, New York. I went to Syracuse. How come you didn't? You went to Connecticut. I remember ... I just want to let you know I remember," Biden said to Stewart.
Given that Stewart won four NCAA championships, four NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player awards and three National Player of the Year awards while at UConn, it's easy to see why Biden wished they shared an alma mater.
First pro basketball team since 2016 Cavaliers
Before Monday, the last professional basketball team to meet with the president after a championship was the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers.
The reason for the drought is fairly obvious. Former President Donald Trump's animus toward the WNBA and NBA, two of the most socially progressive leagues in the country, was well-known to anyone who followed his Twitter account. Once he entered office, White House visits for both leagues dried up, due to both a lack of invitations and interest.
The 2017 Golden State Warriors had Stephen Curry signal he had no interest in visiting Trump, prompting the president to publicly declare their invitation had been “withdrawn.” The 2017 Minnesota Lynx didn't receive an invite at all. The 2018 Warriors didn’t even bother discussing it. Bird said the 2018 Storm didn't consider a trip either. The 2019 Toronto Raptors apparently had Trump’s support to visit, but a trip never materialized. The 2019 Washington Mystics never got an invite either.
The lone basketball team to ever visit Trump in the White House was the 2019 Baylor women's team. Per the Times, Bird didn't consider the opportunity an honor while he was president:
“I think for a very long time, up until 2016, going to the White House was an honor. It wasn’t necessarily political. It was to meet the president of the United States. The person who holds that office acknowledging your team’s success.
“It’s sad in a way that no WNBA team has been invited in the last couple of years, and we know why. It’s nice to have a president in the office who’s going to recognize women and their success.”
The drought continued into 2020 and 2021, but more due to the COVID-19 pandemic than Trump. The Lakers signaled they wanted to visit Biden after his inauguration, but the logistics apparently just didn't work out when they were in D.C.
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