February 27, 2024

Remarks by Vice President Harris Honoring the 2022 WNBA Champions, the Las Vegas Aces

Remarks by Vice President Harris Honoring the 2022 WNBA Champions, the Las Vegas Aces

East Room

2:19 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  All right.  (Applause.)  Good afternoon, everyone.  Good afternoon.  Please have a seat.  Good afternoon.  Good afternoon.

Well, let me just thank everyone here for all that you do to support this extraordinary team — and all the leaders who are here.

President Biden and Dr. Biden could not join us today, but I will tell you they always make sure that we keep the People’s House to our nation’s athletes and champions.  And so, I send you their best regards and congratulations to this team for all that you have accomplished.  (Applause.)

I want to thank my husband, the first Second Gentleman of the United States — (applause) — and a real champion for women’s equality and empowerment and a big fan and supporter of women athletes.  In fact, he previously hosted the first-ever all-girls junior NBA basketball clinic in Ghana and, most recently, led the U.S. delegation to the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.  So, thank you, Doug.  (Applause.)

Thank you also to Congressman Steve Horsford — (applause) — my friend and the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford — (applause); former governor Sisolak — (applause); and members of the Nevada State Legislature, which has the highest representation of women legislators of any state legislature in our nation.  (Applause.)

So, today, we celebrate a group of leaders that define excellence in every way: Aces owner Mark Davis, team president Nikki Fargas, the coaches, and especially, of course, the players — (applause) — the winners of the 2022 WNBA championship, the Las Vegas Aces.  (Applause.)

So, it was only five years ago that this franchise moved to Las Vegas from San Antonio.  And now they are the first major professional sports team in Nevada history — in Nevada history to win a championship.  Think about that.  (Applause.) 

And that’s because this team defines grit and determination.  Starting with a coach — (applause) — who is also now a Hall of Famer, Becky Hammon.  (Applause.)  And so, this group knows Coach Hammon is just, simply put, a winner.  She’s just a winner. 

As a player in the WNBA, she was a six-time All Star.  Later, she joined the San Antonio Spurs as the first fulltime female assistant coach in NBA history.  (Applause.)  And now as a head coach in the WNBA, she became the first rookie head coach to win a WNBA championship.  Think about that.  (Applause.)  She’s a winner.  She’s a winner. 

And speaking of winners, let us take pride also in the pride of Columbia, South Carolina, A’ja Wilson — (applause) — my soror — (laughter) — couldn’t help it — who helped that state win its first NCAA women’s basketball championship.  Who two years ago, brought home the gold from the 2022 [2020] Olympics in Beijing [Tokyo].  Who last year, won her second WNBA MVP award.  And who, just this week, tied the WNBA record — (applause) — for points in a game.  (Applause.)  And yes, that was 53 points in a game.

And, of course —

COACH HAMMON:  In 33 minutes.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  In —

COACH HAMMON:  In 33 minutes.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And in 33 minutes.  (Laughter.)  Thank you, Coach.

PARTICIPANT:  That’s different. 

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And, of course, she doesn’t do it alone, because the Aces win when they play as a true team.  These players lift up their teammates and step up when their team needs them.

Like guard Chelsea Gray — (applause) — who won Finals MVP with her hustle, her passing, and her defense.  (Applause.)

MS. WILSON:  Yes!  Say that defense.  Say that defense.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And Kelsey Plum — (applause) — who sealed the championship with a clutch shot with only 25 seconds left in Game 4.

The Aces brought home that trophy because you are not only a team, you are a family.  You support each other on and off the court.  And you represent your fans, your teammates, your city with poise and with heart.  And we know you are not done.  Just last night, the Aces set the WNBA record for wins in a season.  (Applause.) 

All while they remind everyone that Las Vegas is so much more than just four miles on the Strip.  Because in addition to being champions on the court, these leaders are role models and leaders off the court. 

You each have a commitment to excellence that includes a commitment to serving your community through the Las Ang- — the Las Vegas Aces Foundation.  You support student mental health and wellness.  And you fight for equal pay.  (Applause.)

And on the issue of equal pay — let us discuss that for a moment.  You have made clear it is an issue of basic fairness and an issue of economic justice.  You know that in our country, women still make only about 84 cents for every dollar that a man makes and that the gap is wider in professional sports.

But you are fighting, quite successfully, to close that gap.

And as I have long said, when we lift up the economic status of women, we lift up the economic status of families and all of society benefits.

So, to the Aces, thank you for your advocacy on the issue of pay equity for women athletes and for all women and their families and for our entire economy.  Thank you for that work.  (Applause.)

And over the years I’ve seen how, together, we can make progress.  As a United States senator, a few years ago, I co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act to make it easier for employees to bring equal pay claims.

And as President Biden and I have done this work, we have limited the use of salary history for federal contractors to help prevent pay inequities and strengthen pay audits to identify these inequities.

So, all of this is to say your advocacy has made a difference. 

In addition to pay equity, members of this team are also leaders in the fight for broader rights and freedoms.  Not only is A’ja a leader on the WNBA Social Justice Council, she, along with her teammates and players across the league, advocate to protect the right to vote.  (Applause.)  They advocate in defense of LGBTQ+ rights and families.   (Applause.)  And they fight to expand access to education.

And all of this leadership, of course, is part of a larger story and it is the story of the WNBA.  The WNBA is more than a basketball league.  You inspire our young people and people across our nation to dream with ambition.  You are living the truth that women belong in every room and on every court.  (Applause.)

And all of that is to say: Our nation is stronger because of your leadership.

For example, when an American citizen was wrongfully detained abroad, you organized and advocated in a ferocious, extraordinary way.  You organized folks.  You lifted up the issue.  You helped educate folks about what was at stake, all in support of Brittney Griner.  (Applause.)  And you did this work so admirably.

And, in fact, in May, it was a joy for Doug and me to join Brittney and her wife Cherelle to attend her first game back.  And it was sports at its best.  I’m sure all of us watched that game.  There were thousands of people at the game that night, and millions more watching on TV as Doug’s team, the Sparks — (laughter) — let him live, let him live — beat the M- — Mercury 94 to 71.  You’re welcome.  (Laughter.)  We saw people of all ages and all backgrounds united in common cause that night. 

And that is the power of sports.  And that’s the power of your leadership. 

So, I’ll conclude with this.  And I spoke with the members earlier — you’ve all heard me talk about my mother many times, and she had many sayings.  And one of them she would often say to me is, “Kamala, you may be the first to do many things.  Make sure you’re not the last.” 

In this incredible room full of winners and many, many firsts, I know you will continue to keep that path open and make sure it is bigger and wider for all of those who will follow. 

You are truly champions in every way.  And for all of this, I congratulate the Las Vegas Aces and thank you for all you do.  (Applause.)

And now it is my great honor to invite Team President Nikki Fargas to the microphone.  (Applause.)

MS. FARGAS:  Madam Vice President and Mr. Emhoff and all the members of the White House staff who assisted with this celebration, thank you so much for making this an incredibly special day for our team, our franchise, and the city of Las Vegas.  (Applause.)

It is truly an honor to be invited to celebrate Nevada’s first major professional sports championship in our nation’s capital.  The timing of today’s event, of course, couldn’t be more appropriate, as tomorrow is Women’s Equity Day.  (Applause.)

Although the WNBA is first and foremost a professional basketball league, it has become much more than that in recent years.  With increasing frequency, our players and our teams have embraced their roles as leaders in the community and use their growing platforms to act as a force for change, fighting for social justice and equality for all.

Three years ago, in your victory speech, Madam Vice President, you implored the children of this nation, regardless of gender, to dream with ambition, to lead with conviction, and to see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before. 

That is what the WNBA does.  That is who the Las Vegas Aces are.  Women who dream with ambition.  Women who lead with conviction.  Trailblazers who continuously breathe new life into the idea that if you can see her, you can be her.  (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

MS. FARGAS:  Championship teams are a product of not just championship-caliber play on the court, but of a championship organization. 

And for us, that begins at the top with our owner, Mark Davis.  Mark is a lifelong women’s basketball fan, who, in his short time as an owner in our league, has transformed what it means to invest in women and invest in the WNBA. 

His vision is what led directly to our hiring of Becky Hammon, our head coach — (applause); our general manager, Natalie Williams — (applause).  And the results speaks for themselves: a WNBA championship in 2022, a WNBA record 30 wins and counting in 2023, as well as the highest attendance totals in the league.  (Applause.)

Former First Lady Michelle Obama once said that the future of our world is only as bright as the future of our girls.  As I look back at the group assembled on this stage, I know that the future is incredibly bright for our franchise, for the WNBA, and for all those little girls out there watching who for — aspire for greatness. 

Again, Madam Vice President, thank you so much for ge- — graciously welcoming us to the White House and for the role you play in inspiring those same little girls.

Now, I’d like to invite two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson and 2022 WNBA Finals Chelsea Gray to present you with a token of our appreciation.  (Applause.)

(The Vice President is presented with an Aces jersey.)  (Applause.)

END                  2:36 P.M. EDT

Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/08/25/remarks-by-vice-president-harris-honoring-the-2022-wnba-champions-the-las-vegas-aces/