WNBA champions snubbed by Trump for 7 months: Lack of White House invite shows his views on women

Minnesota Lynx's coach says a Trump invitation could finally bury beliefs that women are inferior to men in sports

Published May 4, 2018 2:57PM (EDT)


Minnesota Lynx coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve told reporters at the team's training camp Wednesday that, almost seven months after winning their fourth WNBA championship in the past seven seasons, the Lynx still haven't been invited to celebrate at the White House, according to The Washington Post.

Reeve expressed her views on the snub in an interview with the newspaper. She said the lack of an invitation for the champion of the most prominent professional women's sports league in the country is, to her, a depiction of how the Trump White House views women.

"It’s hard not to think that gender is playing a role here because of the consistency with which men’s teams are being invited and celebrated," Reeve told The Washington Post. "I think it reflects the priorities of this particular administration."

The topic came up on Wednesday after a reporter at the team's training camp asked the longtime Lynx coach about a White House visit. Reeve expanded on the issue with a pointed tweet following a podcast with Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan that was released Thursday morning.

For Reeve, the issue comes down to the Trump administration’s seemingly unequal treatment of champions in women’s and men’s sports. Reeve pointed out that while the South Carolina women’s basketball team, which won the NCAA title in 2017, was invited to attend the White House only as part of a group of visiting NCAA championship-winning teams—to which the Gamecocks said 'thanks, but no thanks, while the men’s champion from the same year, North Carolina, had received their own invitation from the White House. Ultimately, neither team made a White House visit, citing scheduling conflicts.

"I’d love to hear what is the reason why championships that have been celebrated since this inception of our league — we’ve been around for 20-plus years — why the sudden change?" Reeve said.

There is no formal protocol for inviting championship teams to the White House, but the custom has become a tradition more than thirty years ago.

President Trump has hosted several professional and collegiate teams during his tenure, including the 2017 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, the 2017 World Series winners Houston Astros and the 2017 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Trump rescinded an invitation to the 2017 NBA champion Golden State Warriors in September after Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, two of the Oakland, California team's most prominent players, said they're not interested in making the trip.

The Super Bowl title champs, the Philadelphia Eagles, have been in discussing scheduling a White House visit, even after some members of the team said they would not attend.

Reeve told The Post that the Lynx received a congratulatory phone call and invitation to the White House days after winning the title in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

"It’s disappointing," she said. "For us, it sort of went with the territory after you win a championship. President Obama sort of spoiled us in terms of establishing this expectation to be recognized. The phone call was one to congratulate, sort of talking about the series, and then as we ended the call it was an invite. You know, 'We can't wait to share in the championship and celebrate with you when you come to the White House; we’ll get it on the schedule.' That was sort of protocol under the last White House and in previous administrations. This year that didn’t happen. There was no communication that I’m aware of."

WNBA President Lisa Borders expressed similar sentiments.

"I am disappointed that the White House hasn’t invited our champion Minnesota Lynx,” Borders said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Not celebrating the WNBA champions is a missed opportunity for our leaders to learn from these incredible women and athletes who serve as an influence and inspiration to their millions of fans around the world."

Minnesota forward Rebekkah Brunson said that she would rather be invited to appear on "Ellen" than attend a White House ceremony with Trump in the days following the Lynx's championship.

But Reeve said Brunson’s comments reflected only her personal beliefs and stressed that if the team were to receive an invitation, it would be a team decision."People sort of make an assumption that we wouldn’t go to the White House, and I don’t think that’s fair," Reeve said. "For us, we would have a conversation with our core group that always makes decisions, and we would talk about the merits of accepting or declining an invitation."

Reeve said an invitation to the White House would serve not only to celebrate the team's win but also to bury the old-fashioned belief that women are inferior to men.

"But to not even be given an opportunity? And let’s be real: There are countless other teams that have won a championship that have been invited and already visited the White House," she added. "That’s the disappointment, is, what’s going on here? Let’s not perpetuate this antiquated narrative that women are less than men, because we’re not. And that has to change."

By Shira Tarlo

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Donald Trump Minnesota Lynx White House Wnba Women In Sports