Instead of dwelling on Trump snub, Minnesota Lynx celebrate 2017 title in D.C. by giving back to the community

WASHINGTON – The Minnesota Lynx celebrated their 2017 WNBA title with a day of service, giving free shoes to students at Payne Elementary School in the southeast area of Washington, D.C.

Last year on October 4, the Lynx tied the Houston Comets for the most WNBA titles after a thrilling game five finals victory against the Los Angeles Sparks. Minnesota anticipated an invitation to the White House based on a tradition of offering sports teams invites that dates back to 1865 during the presidency of Andrew Johnson. Back then, Johnson welcome two baseball teams, the Brooklyn Atlantics and the Washington Nationals, to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

During Barack Obama era, the Lynx visited the White House three times as they also won the league championship in 2011, 2013 and 2015. As an avid basketball fan, the two-term 44th president always heaped accolades on the team and made sure to mention how WNBA players were great role models for his two daughters.

Minnesota did not receive an invitation to the White House from President Donald Trump to celebrate their most recent title. An offer to visit the White House used to be an event that teams treasured. However, Trump has not followed suit and even rescinded an invitation extended to the NFL Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles because some of the team’s players said they would not go to the White House in protest of Trump and his ongoing verbal attacks on pro football athletes who kneel during the national anthem to bring awareness to the issue of police brutality.

Minnesota is the third women’s team to not receive an invitation to celebrate their championship with the president. Notre Dame and South Carolina, the past two winners of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament, were not offered invitations either.

The Lynx decided not to dwell on the issue and turned a trip to D.C. this week into a community service event. Instead of going to the White House, Minnesota partnered with the non-profit organization Samaritan’s Feet to give Payne students a variety socks and shoes donated by Nike, Jordan Brand and DTLR Villa. All of Payne’s 340 students fall under low income status and thirty percent are homeless.

Children at the school joyfully picked out shoes and had their feet washed by volunteers and the Lynx. They also had fun frolicking outside with players like Maya Moore, Rebekkah Brunson and Sylvia Fowles, giving their fresh kicks a test drive.

Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said she was proud of her team’s perseverance and commitment in light of the controversy surrounding athletes and White House invites.

“This team makes unbelievable lemonade when faced with adversity,” Reeves said. “We’re not gonna let the President [Trump] tell us we’re not important. We had so many important people involved with our celebration today.”

A trophy ceremony in the school’s auditorium capped the day. Texas representative Sheila Jackson Lee and Florida representative Lois Frankel were in attendance as well as Minnesota senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith. The senators gave heartfelt speeches about Minnesota’s strength and commitment to the WNBA and minority communities. The team thanked the members of Congress with signature jerseys, a tradition that previous presidents participated in during White House ceremonies for national champions.

The Lynx and the Minnesota senators delivered a similar message about power in representation as Klobuchar called the service day a supportive moment of solidarity. She said that the customized jerseys were a symbol of Minnesota’s love and appreciation to the community.

“When you’re in the minority like women senators are you start to understand women like [the Lynx],” Klobuchar said. “There’s a bond of women athletes and women politicians….They’re helping these kids because as years go on, these women will become superstars and role models to these kids just like men are.”

The Lynx’s service day aligns with the WNBA’s commitment to serving those in need. Before the start of the season, the WNBA released a video showcasing its commitment to serving minority and underrepresented communities through social justice and community service. Minnesota took their commitment to the nation’s capital, the hub of America’s political movements.

“This league has always been about diversity and inclusion,” Reeve said. “There’s so many ways its reflected. If you look at today, this was their choice. This represents not only the 12 players on the Minnesota Lynx, but this represents the entire [WNBA].”

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