WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama welcomed the Phoenix Mercury to the White House on Wednesday but chided last season's WNBA champions for beating his hometown team in the finals.
The Mercury, led by five-time Women's National Basketball Association scoring champion Diana Taurasi, won a record 29 regular season games en route to their third championship.
"I would be happy to be here, except that the Mercury getting here involved beating the Chicago Sky in the finals," Obama, a Chicago native, joked at the East Room ceremony. "In fact, Diana, backstage, was trash-talking me.
"You have kept yet another Chicago sports team from getting into the White House. But there's always next year."
The Mercury swept the Sky in three straight games to claim the title.
Obama praised the players for the charitable work they are doing in the Phoenix area, saying "this is a team that I think is representative of what the WNBA is all about."
"They’re doing good in their community," he said. "They’re great athletes. They and women across the WNBA are changing the way that young girls, including my daughters, see themselves."
The president said he has seen a shift in attitude over the last 20 years so that women now are routinely seen as "great athletes and great leaders."
"And that does not happen unless these outstanding women perform the way they do," he said, before adding with a chuckle, "Plus they look so good. They clean up pretty good."
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Eric Beech