President Joe Biden welcomed the Seattle Storm to the White House on Monday to celebrate the team’s record-tying fourth WNBA Championship during the 2020 season. The last time a WNBA team visited the White House was in 2016 when former President Barack Obama, an avid basketball fan, hosted the Minnesota Lynx to celebrate the team’s 2015 title.
“You’re an inspiring team and you represent a hell of a city, a great American city in a groundbreaking league,” Biden said in greeting the Storm. He congratulated the team’s five Olympians (three from the USA and two from Australia), lauded the gold medalists from Team USA (Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Lloyd), and complimented the team on its social justice work over the past few years.
After the indoor ceremony, Bird and Stewart talked to media.
“I’ve been fortunate to come to the White House a couple of times before with President Obama in office,” Stewart said. “But to be able to come back and celebrate our WNBA championship from 2020 with President Biden, just an amazing experience.
Video: Seattle Storm
3:35 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Please — please, be seated. Thank you. Well, I’ll tell you what, the last time I was in a room with this many great athletes, I was having dinner with my granddaughters. (Laughter.)
Look, I tell you what, it’s an honor to have you here. I mean, it really is a genuine honor to have you all here. You have no idea. I don’t know how these guys got in this damn picture, but — (laughter) — it’s okay. They’re all right.
And, look, I’m honored to welcome to the White House the 2020 WNBA Champions, the Seattle Storm. (Applause.)
You’re an inspiring team, and you represent a hell of a city — a great American city and a groundbreaking league. The only all-female ownership group in pro sports — Lisa, Ginny, and Dawn: Congratulations. Congratulations. (Applause.)
I may need work after this. I’d be a good ball boy. I can — (laughter) — I can (inaudible).
Commissioner Cathy, it’s great to have you here. Thank you for your leadership of the WNBA, and now celebrating 25 years of excellence.
And to the players, congratulations and thank you for being you. And thank you for believing in one another.
You know, the Bidens are a sports family. We’re one of — I have — one of our granddaughters, Maisy, is a great athlete, loves to play basketball, but also is all — first team all-state in two different sports and is now at Penn playing soccer.
I have — and I have a granddaughter who — another granddaughter who’s a hell of a ball player as well.
I have a niece — my sister’s daughter — who was first team all-American and all-Ivy in lacrosse.
And I can go on and on.
We all thought we were pretty good athletes — the men in our family. I wasn’t a bad ball player. I wasn’t a bad football and baseball player — my brothers. But I got to admit, all the women are better than us. (Laughter.) All of them. You think I’m joking, I’m not. They’re first rate.
And our White House is full of athletes, including some of my top aides. Annie Tomasini played point guard at Boston University. Annie — where are you, Annie? I’m going to embarrass you. Stand up, Annie. (Applause.)
I’m going to divert here in just a second. Another guy, who’s a great guy that was working with me when I was trying to get the nomination a hundred years ago when we were in Iowa — which was an adventure, and we were going from one county to the next. And this guy is six-five. I don’t want to give you his name. He’s a hell of an athlete. He’s six-foot-five.
And he was dri- — he was the driver, and Annie was in the back making sure we knew where we were going. And we showed up to this — this high school where we were going to speak, but it turned out we were un- — we didn’t want to ruin our reputation. We were early. And we — that ruins my reputation, because I’m usually always late.
And we pulled up, and we pulled into the school parking lot. And there was a basketball, underneath one of the baskets, sitting there. And we were the only one in the par- — we were — it turned out we got the time wrong. We were about an hour early.
So, I turn to this guy, Mark, and I said, “Mark, see that ball in…” And I said — I said, “I bet you 20 bucks Annie can beat you in high heels.” (Laughter.) And she said, “Oh, give me a break.” I mean, I said, “No, come on. Let’s go to 10. You know, winner keeps the ball, and you keep going.” Annie is out — goes out in high heels and blew him away 10 to 3. (Laughter.) And he wasn’t a bad athlete.
But anyway — anyway, Annie is good at everything she does. (Laughter.)
And Susan Rice — Ambassador Rice, she played high school basketball, and her niece is the top of the high school players — one of the top high school players in the country and may just be in the W one day. Where — where are you, Susan — Ambassador Rice? (Applause.)
Her expertise is foreign policy, so I asked her to take over domestic policy for me. But, anyway, Susan, I’m anxious to meet your niece.
This is a big day for so many of us, including for two great members of Congress here today: Represent- — Representative Rick Larsen from the state of Washington’s Second District. Where are you, Rick? There you are, Rick. Come on, stand up. Let me see you, Rick. (Applause.) And Representative Kim Schrier. Kim, thank you. And welcome, Kim. (Applause.) She represents Washington’s Eighth District. And it’s her 35th birthday today. Happy birthday.
And this organization is no stranger to success: four WNBA championships, tied for the most of any franchise; and five players are Olympians — two from Australia and three from the United States. You know, Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd: Thank you for bringing the gold home. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
My wife, Jill, led our delegation to Tokyo, and it was one of the great honors of her life. And what you accomplished there was incredible, winning the seventh straight basketball gold for Team USA. Let’s give a round for them. (Applause.)
Jewell’s first gold, Breanna’s second, and Sue’s fifth. But who’s counting? (Laughter.) Who’s counting? The record for any basketball player that played — man or women — that she shares with Diana. And I just think it’s incredible.
Back in March, we had the honor of welcoming Sue’s fiancée and — fiancée, Megan — excuse me, Megan came and we tried to get her outside playing soccer with us, but it didn’t work quite well, but — (laughter) — because we couldn’t keep up.
And they came to the White House to mark Equal Pay Day. And it’s long past due for Equal Pay Day for women in America.
Between the two of them, they share Olympic medals, World Cup titles, the WNBA Championship, and above all, they define integrity and character.
As President, as an American, I’m proud of how they’ve represented us. And they represent the best of what America stands for, as does this whole team.
In the WNBA, amidst a year unlike any other, this team met the moment, sweeping through the playoffs and finals against Minnesota and Las Vegas, and six wins and no losses. Masterful defense, shooting, and teamwork. Breanna earning the Finals MVP that was joined by her Olympic MVP award.
And, by the way, Breanna is from Syracuse, New York. I went to Syracuse. How come you didn’t? You went to Connecticut. (Laughter.) I remember. I remember.
MS. STEWART: I’m sorry.
THE PRESIDENT: I just want you to know — just remember — what high school did you go to in Syracuse?
MS. STEWART: Cicero-North Syracuse.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I — you know, it was a great disappointment. (Laughter.) But you know it’s true. I’m not joking. (Laughter.) You know it’s true. Everybody knew how incredible she was when she was in high school.
But what’s even more special is she and her wife just became moms for their new baby, Ruby. Congratulations. (Applause.)
A WBA — a WNBA championship, Olympic gold, and a precious Ruby. And what a year, Breanna. It’s a — I — it’s a hell of year you’ve had, kid.
And what makes this team remarkable is they don’t just win games, they change lives: encouraging people to get vaccinated so we can beat this pandemic; speaking out and standing up for racial justice and voting rights; supporting education and membership program for young people, and — excuse me, mentorship programs for young people; and fighting to protect trans youth from an epidemic of violence and discrimination.
That’s what winners do. They shine the light. They lift people up. They’re a force for change. That’s the Seattle Storm. That’s the WNBA. That’s what they do.
For 25 years, the WNBA has been changing what’s possible for millions of women and girls all across the world. You give people — you give them courage.
You know, I can say as much as I want — from the time my two daughters were born — that you can do anything a man can do. It’s one thing for somebody to say that and keep pounding that in the head of your five granddaughters as well. But guess what? Until they see it, until they watch, it becomes real then.
That’s why, by the way, she’s — and happens to be in Asia for me right now — but that’s why we have a female Vice President of United States of America who’s going to be — we’re going to have some presidents pretty soon.
And redefining what sports can mean in the life of a community and the never-ending work of building a more just, a more equal, and a more perfect union.
That’s why, as a nation, we need to support women’s sports, not just during the Olympics, but during the year — during every season — by showing up in person and watching on TV, with more sponsorships and programming to help grow the business of women’s sports.
And these women are amazing athletes. They’re the best in the world. And we honor them by showing up for them.
To the whole Storm family, thank you all and congratulations. And best of luck for this — the rest of the season.
Now, I want to ask Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder to come up and say a few words, if you will, Ginny. (Applause.)
MS. GILDER: Ah, I get to take this off.
THE PRESIDENT: I forgot my mask. (Inaudible.)
MS. GILDER: Oh, especially if you come near me.
THE PRESIDENT: (Inaudible) what did I do with my mask? There you go.
MS. GILDER: You good? (Laughter.)
Every championship pro-sports team in reaching the pinnacle of athletic excellence is extraordinary. That’s certainly the case with the 2020 WNBA champions, who pretty much ran away with the trophy. The women before you swept through the playoffs and won the last game of the finals by over 30 points.
The climb to the top is always steep, but 2020’s climb was extraordinarily so, thanks to a global health crisis and national social unrest. The precariously tippy-top of its pinnacle stood in rare air. That’s why I’m so grateful and proud, Mr. President, that you invited this group of women to celebrate and highlight their accomplishments. They are truly about so much more than basketball.
Playing while a pandemic raged through the world, sequestered in a tightly controlled environment, far from family, friends, and fans. Surrounded by fellow players and league officials — breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No distractions from the business of basketball — except, of course, there was nothing but distraction.
These athletes did not enter the bubble and leave behind the pain, grief, and fury of the movement for social change that was washing across our country, stirred up by the ongoing crisis of police killings of Black people.
In fact, they did the dead-opposite. The women of the W waded into the center of this movement. They used their play on the court and their eloquence off, not merely to demand change, but to generate engagement and cause change. They channeled their emotion into action, establishing “Say Her Name” as the centerpiece of the entire season to fight for justice for Breonna Taylor, bolstering voter registration across the country, altering the power balance in the U.S. Senate by helping to elect two new senators from the state of Georgia.
Through — (applause) — through their focused efforts, these leaders modeled how to respond in tough times and never, ever settle. They offered concrete reasons to hold on to hope, and they changed the future of our country.
That’s not hyperbole.
It’s also not hyperbole to say this championship team is a champion of champions. In Seattle, inspired and informed by our players, our franchise formalized its own history of advocacy by creating a social justice platform, Force4Change.
Today, Crystal Langhorne, one of our two-time WNBA champions and now retired, leads that effort as a member of our executive team. I’ve asked her to come up and give you just a taste of the work that she’s leading.
Thank you, President Biden, for recognizing these women, for helping lead the way to a more equitable and just tomorrow. (Applause.)
MS. LANGHORNE: Good afternoon, everyone. We are truly honored to be here for our achievements on the court, but I think I can speak for all of us from the Storm organization: We are extremely proud of who we are off the court.
Force4Change focuses on creating a more equitable society — on amplifying Black women, BIPOC youth, and the LGBTQ+ community. But it’s not just about amplifying; it’s about investing into communities that have been underserved and working with the organizations that have been leading the way in this space.
This summer, we worked with our community partners and together invested $100,000 in the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, matching what we invested to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund last year.
Social justice cannot fade into the background. We have to continue to amplify, invest, and do whatever we can to be a force for change.
Being the first women’s team to visit this administration — an administration that aligns with so many of our values — is such an honor. So, thank you.
And now I’m proud to turn this over to my former teammates — our three Olympic gold medalists — Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, and Breanna Stewart who will present President Biden with his jersey. (Applause.)
MS. BIRD: First of all, thank — I want to thank everybody here who helped put this together and bring us to the White House. It’s special to be here.
On behalf of the Storm, the WNBA as a league, President Biden, thank you so much for welcoming us into the White House. As people who are part of women’s sports, it feels good to be back in this place and to have our achievements celebrated in this way.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t — you know, I wouldn’t be truly representing our league if I didn’t talk about the work that still needs to be done in our country, in our communities, but also the work that we have been doing. And I think we’re going to continue to do it because this team is special, and that’s what made the 2020 season so special.
As Ginny talked about, as Lang talked about, we did both, and it’s what made this championship so special, because it was hard work. This is hard work.
So, thank you to you, President Biden, and your administration for all the work you’re continuing to do. To the team: I mean, I rock with you guys so hard. The 2020 season was amazing, and it’s just beyond to be here right now.
So, it’s my honor and privilege to present you —
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MS. BIRD: Do you want Stewie to present you this jersey? And we thank you so much for having us here. It’s such an honor.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)
3:52 P.M. EDT
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