Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and their Minnesota Lynx teammates have been to the White House a few times in their storied careers after winning WNBA championships.
This year, after no invite came to celebrate their 2017 title at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the team decided to spend an off day in Washington handing out Jordan Brand shoes and Nike socks to more than 300 students at the Payne Elementary School. About 30 percent of the students at the school are homeless, and all of the kids come from low-income families.
"I'm so ridiculously blessed to have so many memories at the White House, so many great ones," Moore said Wednesday while standing on the playground at the school. "This will probably be more unique. We made some great memories with these kids. We'll definitely remember this."
The idea to do a day of service on their lone trip to Washington came from the Lynx captains about two weeks ago.
"When we didn't get invited to the White House, we wanted to find a different, fun, unique way to impact a bunch of kids and adults," Whalen said. "We wanted to make it as positive a day as possible."
Through the hard work of the Lynx organization and their partnership with Samaritan's Feet , they were able to pull it together.
"It was everything we had hoped it would be," coach Cheryl Reeve said in a phone interview Wednesday night. "It came together very quickly. It was everything the planners had envisioned for it. It was an incredible learning experience for the kids and our players and coaches, too."
While the Lynx players and coaches didn't mention President Donald Trump by name during the event, the team's lack of an invite to the White House drew the attention of the teams in the NBA Finals.
LeBron James called it laughable on Tuesday that the Lynx hadn't been invited to the White House.
"I think what you're seeing is, I think the athletes are showing patriotism through their community service," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said before Game 3. "The president is turning all of this stuff into a political game and a ratings game and it's a blatant display of nationalism. What patriotism is, is helping your fellow citizen and whether it's what KD (Kevin Durant) is doing (with students around the country) or what we did when we visited Washington or what the Lynx are doing today, that's what patriotism is about."
Kerr's team spent a few hours at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington with local students earlier this year after their White House visit offer was rejected and rescinded.
The events Wednesday occurred during the same week the Philadelphia Eagles were set to visit the White House before the celebration was called off by the president on Monday.
The Lynx's day ended with a ceremony that included speeches from Minnesota's democratic senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, as well as players . The team thanked the members of Congress with signature jerseys, a tradition that usually is done at White House visits for the president.
"Today was a celebration of so many things, including the WNBA," Reeve said. "We have 144 players, 12 franchises in the league deeply committed to what we did today in serving the community."
To find Samaritan's Feet online: https://www.samaritansfeet.org/