“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 said Thursday in a phone interview with The Washington Post. “I think it reflects the priorities of this particular administration.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The topic emerged Wednesday when a reporter at Lynx training camp asked Reeve about a White House visit. Minnesota’s longtime coach 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 boils down to the Trump administration’s unequal treatment of champions in women’s and men’s sports. Reeve pointed out that 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, while the men’s champion from the same year, North Carolina, had been in contact with the White House about scheduling its own visit. Ultimately, neither team made a White House visit. Both cited 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, a tradition that became annual practice more than three decades ago.
President Trump has hosted an array of professional and collegiate teams since taking office, 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 withdrew an invitation to the 2017 NBA champion Golden State Warriors in September after star Stephen Curry said the team wouldn’t make the trip. The current Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles have been in contact with the White House about scheduling a visit, even after some members of the team said they would not attend.
Reeve said the Lynx received a congratulatory phone call and invitation to the White House days after championship wins in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
“It’s disappointing,” Reeve 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 echoed Reeve.
“I am disappointed that the White House hasn’t invited our champion Minnesota Lynx,” Borders said in a statement. “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 (and Washington native) Rebekkah Brunson said in the days following the Lynx’s championship that she would rather be invited to appear on “Ellen” than attend a White House ceremony with Trump. But Reeve said Brunson’s comments reflected only her personal beliefs and maintained that if the White House were to extend 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 she thinks her team would see an opportunity in a White House visit to act as representatives for women in sports and shine a light on their accomplishments.
“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 said. “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.”
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