Former President Barack Obama wasn’t surprised the WNBA led the charge when it came to the social justice movement. Obama appeared on the “Bill Simmons Podcast” on Thursday, where he said the women’s championship teams that visited the White House would often ask him questions about policy.
The men’s championship teams, on the other hand, “would just kinda mumble,” Obama said a little over 4 minutes into the podcast.
“Let’s stipulate women, generally, are superior to men. And women athletes are no different. It was interesting. There was such a contrast when you had the men’s teams, championship teams, come and the women’s teams come. The guys were all nice, but a lot of them would just kinda mumble the same way that all of us probably did if we were 21 or 22 and showed up at the White House. And the women, they would be articulate and engaged and ask these policy questions. So I wasn’t surprised.”
Obama then talks about Maya Moore, who put her WNBA career on hold to free Jonathan Irons, a man Moore believed was wrongfully imprisoned. Moore missed the 2019 and 2020 WNBA seasons to achieve her goal. In July, she succeeded. Irons was released from prison after serving over 20 years of a 50-year sentence. The two announced their marriage in September.
Moore wasn’t the only player to combat social injustice. The entire WNBA dedicated the 2020 season to Breonna Taylor, a Black ER tech who was shot and killed by Louisville police in March while she was asleep in her apartment. Players continued to push for the arrests of the officers involved in Taylor’s case after Taylor’s family settled a $12 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Louisville. Teams also got involved in the Georgia Senate race, where players openly campaigned against Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler.
This was nothing new for the WNBA, where players wore shirts advocating for “justice and accountability” after Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were shot and killed by police in 2017.
Barack Obama says paying college players wouldn’t negatively impact NCAA
Obama also talked about college sports, where he changed his stance on whether paying college athletes would negatively impact the game. Obama — who in 2015 said the idea could “ruin the sense of college sports” — revealed he now believes compensating college athletes can be done without eliminating what people love about NCAA sports.
Obama said the money being made by universities and coaches, combined with the risks players take, should lead to a “better economic arrangement for [college athletes.]”
When asked whether NCAA athletes should get paid, Obama’s full answer — which occurred at 24:20 in the recording — read:
“Yes. I think that the amount of money that is being made at the college level, the risks that, let’s say, college football players are being subjected to, and the fact that, for many of these colleges, what these young people are doing is subsidizing athletic director salaries and coach salaries.
“All of that argues for a better economical arrangement for them. I think there is a way of doing that that doesn’t completely eliminate the traditions and the love that we all have for college sports.”
That final line contradicts what Obama said in 2015, when he said paying players could “ruin” college sports as we know them.
Sports played a big role in Obama’s presidency. Obama unveiling his NCAA basketball brackets became a big deal, and was covered by nearly every sports network and website. Obama is no stranger to Simmons’ podcast. The former president has now done interviews with Simmons at ESPN, HBO and The Ringer.
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