Ava Wallace and Cindy Boren
Maya Moore, a starting forward on the reigning WNBA champions Minnesota Lynx, has plenty of memories from visiting the White House. She’s gone three times with the Lynx to celebrate titles won in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
This year, she made a different kind of memory. This year, Moore and the Lynx traded speeches and photo ops in the East Room of the presidential mansion for a trip to southeast D.C., where the team spent the afternoon handing out Jordan brand shoes to more than 300 elementary school students and shooting hoops on the Payne Elementary School playground.
“I’m so ridiculously blessed to have so memories at the White House, so many great ones,” Moore said Wednesday while standing on the blacktop. “This will probably be more unique. We made some great memories with these kids. … We’ll definitely remember this.”
The Lynx, who won the title in October, made other plans when they did not receive an invitation from the White House to celebrate their fourth championship in seven seasons, as in previous years.
The day began with Coach Cheryl Reeve and forward Rebekkah Brunson, a Georgetown graduate from Maryland, addressing an auditorium full of students before the team, in partnership with the nonprofit organization Samaritan’s Feet, before handing out Nike socks and Jordan brand sneakers and playing ball with the students. It ended with a ceremony that included speeches from Minnesota’s Democratic senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.
Neither Minnesota’s players nor Reeve mentioned President Trump’s name to reporters on Wednesday, but the day of service was a statement of sorts — one that happened to fall in the same week the Philadelphia Eagles were set to visit the White House, a celebration that was called off by Trump on Monday. On Tuesday, NBA stars LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry said neither the Cleveland Cavaliers nor Golden State Warriors would make a White House visit while Trump is in office.
“The president is turning all of this stuff into a political game and a ratings game and it’s a blatant display of nationalism,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said when asked about the Lynx’s lack of a White House invite Wednesday.
Both Reeve and Moore framed the community service as an extension of the Lynx’s public activism.
Before a game in July 2016, the Lynx wore black-and-white warm-up shirts that read, “Change starts with us. Justice & accountability,” on the front and displayed the names Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two African American men killed by police, as well as the Dallas Police Department emblem and the phrase “Black Lives Matter” on the back. Before Game 1 of the most recent WNBA Finals, the team linked arms during the national anthem while their opponents, the Los Angeles Sparks, went to the locker room.
“I think they understand their power, their ability to enact change. We were taught long ago, when you stand idly by, change is not going to come,” Reeve said.
“Patriotism is subjective. I’m from a military family, so I know how I was raised and what patriotism means. But service is a form of patriotism, giving and doing things for others in our own country. We’re not in Minnesota, we certainly serve our communities there, but this is what patriotism look like.”
“This is another expression of that [activism], obviously it’s not as sad, but this is something that is a little more positive to be able to continue to just be who we are,” Moore said. “In 2016, we took a step in how public that was, and we think there’s been a lot of positive results of that too.”
When asked at the end of Wednesday’s service event whether the team would have accepted an invitation if they had received one from the White House, Moore said, “I’m excited to be here right now.”