Obama Plays Hoops at the White House, but Where are the Women?

By Gorman Gorman

Oct 8, 2009 12:51pm

ABC News' Karen Travers reports:
Taking a break from health care and Afghanistan strategy review sessions, President Obama will get in a game of basketball today on the White House court. On the roster for the afternoon pick-up game is a notable list of public officials including four cabinet secretaries — Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar – and 11 Members of Congress (nine Democrats, two Republicans).But what is missing from this tableau of fitness and athleticism? Women. No Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services and former college basketball player at Trinity in Washington, DC. No Susan Rice, ambassador to the United Nations and former high school standout at the National Cathedral School in Washington, who is in town today to give a speech at Howard University School of Law. No female Members of Congress who played basketball in high school, like Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD). The White House had no immediate comment. Maybe the guys are worried about getting shown up? On his show last night, comedian Jay Leno asked Sebelius who would win in a game of HORSE, her or President Obama? Sebelius didn't hold back. "You know I actually made my college basketball team," she said to laughter from Leno's audience. "I'm not sure he did so you know, bring it on, give me your best shot." Obama is an avid basketball player who would often take a break from the grind of the presidential campaign trail to get in a game with friends and staff. He played on his high school team in Hawaii but did not make it to the next level. Earlier this year, Obama did test his skills against some top notch female hoopsters – the University of Connecticut Women's Basketball team, which went undefeated last season on its way to its third national championship. In remarks honoring the team that day, Obama noted the impact that successful female athletes have on young girls including his two daughters, Malia and Sasha."My girls look at the TV when I'm watching 'SportsCenter' and they see women staring back," Obama said about the ESPN sports show. "That shows them that they can be champions, too."If the Obama girls are looking for athletic inspiration this week, they may want to wait until Friday night's WNBA Finals instead of checking out the game in their own backyard this afternoon. UPDATE:  White House Says Questions about Women Left off Basketball Game Roster are 'Well Taken'

In his daily briefing, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs was peppered with questions about the basketball game at the White House today and said the point about no women on the court was "well taken."

"The president, obviously, is someone who, as the father of two young daughters, has an avid interest in their competing against anybody on the playing field" Gibbs said. "The president's certainly played basketball and other sports with women in the past, and I anticipate he'll do so in the future."

Asked by ABC News' Yunji de Nies if the president would take Secretary Sebelius up on her challenge to "bring it on" in a shooting contest, Gibbs said, "I don't know if he's played with Secretary Sebelius before, but I think the president would be encouraged to play, yes."-Karen Travers

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