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‘It matters’: Aces visit with Biden at White House — PHOTOS

Updated May 9, 2024 - 8:04 pm

WASHINGTON — A’ja Wilson doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

She had to abandon her pumps and go barefoot when she visited the White House last year. On Thursday, the 2023 WNBA Finals MVP opted for a pair of white sneakers.

The comfortable choice paid off, as the Aces’ return to the White House was a bigger, better and more expansive affair.

Before the event officially began, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris pulled out all the stops for the back-to-back champions. The team was greeted with warm cookies, which they didn’t get last year.

The surprise was followed by another new perk: a tour of the Oval Office.

Biden, who missed the 2023 celebration, emphasized the importance of women’s sports during his comments.

“It matters to girls and women, finally seeing themselves represented, and it matters to all of America. That’s why, as a nation, we need to support women’s sports,” Biden said during the East Room ceremony. “I want to thank you for showing that the future of women’s sports is brighter than the Vegas lights.”

As was the case last year, first lady Jill Biden wasn’t in attendance, this time missing the event for a fundraiser in Portland, Oregon. Harris was once again joined by her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff.

Harris made the first comments, praising the Aces for being good role models and bringing “such joy” to the court.

She enthusiastically recalled the highlights of the title-clinching Game 4 of the 2023 WNBA Finals, a win over the New York Liberty that made the Aces the first franchise to repeat as champions since 2002.

Wilson and point guard Chelsea Gray presented Harris and Biden with custom jerseys in another callback to last year’s visit. Upon receiving his new gear, the president joked that he was ready to get in a game.

During his address, Biden honored WNBA legend Candace Parker, mistakenly calling her “one of the greatest all-time coaches.” Parker, a player who was injured for most of last season, retired the day before the Aces’ training camp began.

When Aces president Nikki Fargas approached the podium, she took Biden’s message about the importance of women’s sports and expanded upon it.

She opened with a history lesson from 1992, when four women won U.S. Senate seats — a record at the time.

Fargas said writers labeled the election as the “Year of the Woman,” a moniker that then-newly re-elected Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., didn’t like. Fargas interpolated the former senator’s words about women in politics, applying them to the league the Aces are dominating.

“We are not a fad. We are not a fancy. We are not a year,” Fargas said. “We are the WNBA, 28 years strong and counting.”

After the ceremony, the Aces were led to a balcony with a view of the South Lawn for one last upgraded White House experience. They waited patiently for Biden’s departure, holding down strands of hair amid the warm winds created when Marine One landed.

The president waved to the Aces and their guests as he approached the helicopter and flew away.

Moments after the event ended and the Aces were ushered out of the building, the WNBA issued an official release to confirm that a full leaguewide program for charter flights will start with the regular season.

It was a fitting time for the league to make such an announcement.

For 2024 draftees, private travel will be the norm. The league’s improvement will be all they know, just like Thursday’s improved celebratory visit set a new standard for first-time White House guests.

“I thought it was going to be the same, but it actually was very different this time,” Wilson said afterward. “And it never gets old. I mean, this is what it means to be a champion.”

Contact Callie Lawson-Freeman at clawsonfreeman@reviewjournal.com. Follow @CallieJLaw on X.

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