While White House press secretary Jay Carney handled questions on recent terrorist attacks in Iraq, United States President Barack Obama stepped away from the chaos for a few moments Thursday afternoon.
In another room, Maya Moore stood behind one of the commander-in-chief’s suit-covered shoulders. Seimone Augustus manned the other flank. And for the second time in the past three years, Obama lauded the Lynx for a job masterfully done.
"Last year, Seimone Augustus issued one of the strangest apologies in sports," Obama told a small gathered crowd. "I’ve never heard this before. She said ‘I’m sorry if we make it look too easy.’
"That’s a good problem to have."
One the president himself might not mind every once in a while.
Praising Moore’s accomplishment, Augustus’ confidence, Lindsay Whalen’s resilience and the entire franchise’s success on the court and in the community, Obama honored Minnesota at the White House as he does whenever any notable American team wins a championship. It was the organization’s second such accolade since 2011 when it won its first WNBA title.
Obama remembers that group, which also featured Olympians Moore, Augustus and Whalen, well. But he also recalled how the team fell in the 2012 WNBA Finals then came back with a vengeance last season.
"In 2013, you set out for a little redemption," Obama said, "and, to put it mildly, you succeeded."
Topping Atlanta in last year’s WNBA Finals, the Lynx became the fifth team in league history to win two titles in a three-year span and the fourth to play in three straight championship series. Their perfect 7-0 postseason run was the WNBA’s second ever and capped off the best three-year aggregate win total in league history with 99 victories.
But they also won with class, the president said, the kind he hopes young women around the nation will emulate. He specifically pointed out their involvement in the WNBA’s "Read to Achieve" program and their annual "Catwalk for a Cure," a fashion show that raises money for breast cancer research.
"Bringing home titles isn’t the only thing that’s earned ‘Los Lynx’ fans throughout Minnesota," Obama said. "I also want to thank this team, as I always tell them, for being great examples for my daughters and for girls across the country."
Obama also teased Moore, who won two national championships at Connecticut and a gold medal with Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics, for making so many trips to the nation’s capital. Thursday marked her fifth, a day after her 25th birthday.
"Basically, there’s like a Maya Moore wing in the White House," Obama joked. "When she comes, we’ve got all her stuff here. She’s got a toothbrush."
Before presenting the president with a No. 13 Lynx jersey alongside Whalen, Moore said a few words of her own.
The reason Minnesota is on the verge of building a dynasty, she says, is the team’s emotional connection on and off the floor. It’s the same reason the Lynx (8-1) boast the WNBA’s best record so far this season, too.
"What a birthday treat," said Moore, whose team faces Atlanta on the road Friday. "We care, and it shows when we’re on the court, when we’re together, when we’re in the community, and I think that’s what our nation’s about.
"Hopefully we can make this an annual trip," Moore added, turning toward the U.S. president and smirking, "and I want to see that room you’re talking about."