(CNN)President Joe Biden honored the WNBA champion Seattle Storm at the White House Monday, praising the team for its actions both on and off the court — especially work the team has done on social justice issues.
“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 … mentorship programs for young people and fighting to protect trans youth from an epidemic of violence and discrimination,” Biden said.”That’s what winners do. They shine the light, they lift people up, they are a force for change. That’s the Seattle Storm, that’s the WNBA, that’s what they do,” he added.The Storm become the first woman’s professional sports team to visit the White House during the Biden administration, something notable in its own right as no WNBA team has visited the White House since 2016, President Barack Obama’s final year in office.”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,” Storm star Sue Bird said.Read MoreBird, who is married to soccer star Megan Rapinoe, said she would not truly be representing the league if she didn’t discuss “the work that still needs to be done in our country and our communities.” Rapinoe also visited the White House earlier this year, marking Equal Pay Day, something Biden said was long overdue during Monday’s remarks.The President praised the WNBA as a whole for giving millions of women and girls courage, showing them women can do anything a man can do, noting his Vice President Kamala Harris was an example of that truth.Storm owner Ginny Gilder said that despite playing their season in a bubble, isolated from much of the world, the WNBA players were fueled by the social justice movement sweeping across the country last year.”The women of the W waded into the center of this movement. They use their play on the court, and their eloquence off, not merely to demand change but to generate engagement and cause change,” she said.”Through their focused efforts, these leaders modeled how to respond in tough times and never ever settle. They offered concrete reasons to hold onto hope, and they change the future of our country,” Gilder added.WNBA players were vocal in their opposition to former Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican who used to co-own the Atlanta Dream franchise, and Gilder said efforts from WNBA players helped flip the balance of power in the United States Senate thanks to Democrats winning the two Senate seats in Georgia.Former Storm player Crystal Langhorne, who currently serves as the team’s director of community engagement for its social justice platform Force4Change, said that the team must, and will, continue to amplify injustices.”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,” she said, saying it is an honor to visit the White House during an administration that aligns with so many of the team’s values.Biden called on all Americans to support continue to support women’s sports by showing up to games and help grow the business of women’s sports.”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 or watching on TV,” he said. “These women are amazing athletes. They’re the best in the world. We honor them by showing up for them.”Biden also gave a special shout out to the Storm’s five Olympians, including three who led the US team to the gold medal: Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Bird — who presented Biden with a Storm jersey.