Remarks by the President Honoring the 2012 WNBA Basketball Champions The Indiana Fever
2:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Welcome to the White House. Everybody, please have a seat. Congratulations to the 2012 WNBA Champions, the Indiana Fever. (Applause.) I told them if you're from Indiana, you better have a good basketball team. (Laughter.) They brought Indiana’s other championship team with them –- the Division III Women’s Basketball champions, the 34-0 DePauw Tigers, who are in the audience. Where are you, Tigers? (Applause.) Tigers -- right back here. How about that? That’s pretty cool. Well, we're going to have to get a picture after we do all this, with the Tigers. I don’t know, by the way, if this is a recruiting violation, you guys bringing them here. (Laughter.) She's keeping her eye out for new talent.
This is not Coach Dunn’s first trip to the White House. She came here when she was a Girl Scout -- I won’t say which administration that was. (Laughter.)
COACH DUNN: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I also want to recognize the WNBA President, Laurel Richie, and Fever team owner Herb Simon. Where are they? (Applause.) I didn’t know where you went. Now, Herb is also the owner of the Indiana Pacers. (Applause.) I will not comment on that. (Laughter.) Although we do both have something in common, which is, our teams got knocked out by the Heat. (Laughter.) But we will get even next year.
And while our towns have a friendly rivalry going on, I still recognize those Midwestern values when I see them. We saw it in the Indiana Fever, which is, you look out for your teammates. You kept fighting, no matter what gets thrown at you. As Coach Dunn put it: “We're all blue collar. We work hard on defense. We rebound. We're tough.”
And that toughness got this team through a season with more than its fair share of injuries. Nevertheless, whenever one player went down, another stepped up. So in Game 3 against Connecticut in the Eastern Conference Finals, hometown hero Katie Douglas was sidelined for the rest of the season. It looked the team might be in real trouble, and then players like Erin Philips came alive. They stormed back, won the game then the series, earning a spot in the Finals.
That’s when you had your "Hoosiers" moment. To be fair, you have a lot more court time under your belts than the team from Hickory High. But you came into the finals as underdogs. The Minnesota Lynx were the defending champions. They had won the season series 2-0.
They knew that they had to step up their game, and that’s what they did. They rallied behind my good friend -- who I've had the pleasure of being on the court, and she took it easy on me -- Tamika Catchings, MVP, who can now add a WBNA championship to her NCAA championship -- (applause) -- three-time Gold Medalist. And all of you then brought home Indiana’s first professional basketball title since 1973. That’s a long time. (Applause.)
And obviously, the Fever's incredible season inspired your state, inspired your fans. But I was mentioning backstage, the WNBA generally inspires a lot of young people. I occasionally coach Sasha's basketball team, and for her to have wonderful role models like this who work hard, know how to play like a team, are incredibly poised and competitors but also show good sportsmanship -- that’s the kind of models you want for your children.
So Coach Dunn has two years -- was two years into her coaching career when Title IX was passed. Today, we’ve got two women’s basketball championships -- championship teams here in the White House. And that’s a reminder of the incredible progress that we've made, thanks to pioneers like Coach Dunn. And so, we really thank you for that. And we appreciate that. (Applause.)
And I want to thank the entire Indiana Fever for giving back to their communities -- not just being role models, but also taking time out off the court. Tamika has her own foundation, Catch the Stars, and she’s helped the First Lady, Michelle, with the Let’s Move program to encourage kids to eat healthy and exercise. Players on the Fever have received a combined 13 WNBA Community Assist Awards for countless hours they spend volunteering. They visit local school kids as part of the Read to Achieve Program. They’ve teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for folks in Indianapolis. And right after this, they’re going to run a basketball clinic on the South Lawn for young people here in D.C.
So it’s that kind of commitment that makes the Fever not just a winning team, but a special team. So I really want to congratulate them on an incredible 2012 season. We wish them the best of luck in 2013. Everybody give the Indiana Fever a big round of applause. (Applause.)
So, yes! Got my jersey. Here, let's take down the -- Coach, do you want to say something?
COACH DUNN: Yes, I do.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, go ahead. (Laughter.)
COACH DUNN: Well, first of all, I'm a little nervous. I haven't been to the White House since the fifth grade. (Laughter.)
But on behalf of our owner, Herb Simon, and the great leadership that we have at Pacers Sports and Entertainment -- Rick Fuson, Jim Morris, Kelly Krauskopf -- and all of our families and friends that are here today. We just want to thank you so much for inviting us here to see the White House, to meet you -- that’s really special too, because I'm a Democrat -- (laughter and applause) -- and to celebrate our championship season, our 2012 championship season.
And I just want you to know that this is an amazing group of women. What they did under just tremendous adversity -- they kept fighting back. Nobody expected us to win the conference. And certainly no one -- none of the reporters -- you know all those people -- (laughter) -- none of them picked us to win, and certainly not to upset the defending WNBA championship. So not only are they great players, great people, but they are tremendous role models. You're proud to meet a great group here. So I just want you to know how special they are.
And, Mr. President, the last thing I want to say is, I want to thank you personally, you and the First Lady, for all you do to empower women. You have no idea. (Applause.) Every day, you both send a strong message that little girls can do anything they want to do, and they can be anything they want to be.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s the truth.
COACH DUNN: And so, we thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. Thank you. (Applause.)
COACH DUNN: We've got some gifts for you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Got my ball, got my hat, got my jersey. I'm set. And I just want to say that I might try to recruit Coach Dunn to run for something. (Laughter.)
All right, let's strike the podium and let's get a good picture.
3:00 P.M. EDT