WASHINGTON – The White House announced Wednesday that President Joe Biden will appoint Elena Delle Donne as co-chair of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.
The 32-year-old forward/guard, entering her fifth season with the Washington Mystics, will help lead the committee alongside noted chef and philanthropist José Andrés, who was announced as the other co-chair. Delle Donne hails from Delaware, as does President Biden.
In a news release, the White House described Delle Donne as “one of the most dominant players in the WNBA” and noted her off-court pursuits as an author and woodworking entrepreneur. Originally drafted by the Chicago Sky, with whom she won a league MVP award in 2015, she was traded to the Mystics in 2017 and picked up another MVP award in 2019 en route to leading the team to its first league championship that year.
Since then, Delle Donne has scarcely suited up, sitting out the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic and back surgeries, and then missing all but three games in 2021 due to lingering health issues. Delle Donne said last month, though, that she felt “phenomenal” and had not experienced pain “in months.”
“I have been going to work every single day, working on my movements, getting so much stronger on the court,” she said then. “Now I’m back.”
Andrés, 52, is a familiar name to many Washington sports fans not only for his several restaurants in the area but also for his charitable endeavors. Among them has been World Central Kitchen, which the White House hailed for using “the power of food to nourish communities and strengthen economies in times of crisis.” With the pandemic sidelining baseball and almost every other sport in April 2020, World Central Kitchen partnered with the Washington Nationals to distribute thousands of meals to families and individuals at Nationals Park. Andrés had appeared at the stadium several months earlier to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 5 of the World Series.
The White House described the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition on Wednesday as “a federal advisory committee that aims to promote healthy, accessible eating and physical activity for all Americans, regardless of background or ability.” Founded in 1956 under the Eisenhower administration, it has long had a tradition of recruiting high-profile figures from the sports world to help spread its initiatives.
Biden’s new appointments came as his administration aimed to remove from the council two Trump appointees who are now running for Senate — including Herschel Walker, the former Eagles running back now running for Senate as a Republican in Georgia, and Mehmet Oz, who is seeking the Republican nomination in Pennsylvania.
“Clearly, Joe Biden can’t be around anyone who doesn’t completely fall in line with his fear-mongering authoritarian one-size-fits-all COVID handling. I am proud of my service and will not resign,” said a statement from Oz, widely known as “Dr. Oz,” a TV celebrity and accomplished cardiothoracic surgeon.
Oz released an email Wednesday that he said came from the administration seeking his resignation, and saying he would be terminated from the group if he didn’t resign by the end of the day.
» READ MORE: Mehmet Oz says he’d renounce dual Turkish citizenship if elected to the Senate, answering GOP primary attacks
A White House spokesperson said that the administration doesn’t allow people who are running for federal office to serve on such boards. There have also been questions raised around the Hatch Act, which bars many executive branch officials from political activities.
It was not immediately clear Thursday if he had been fired from the council.
Some of the council’s past chairs and co-chairs include: Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson, baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial, Marquette basketball coach Al McGuire, Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier, NFL coach George Allen, muscle-building icon/movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, track star Florence Griffith Joyner, former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, former Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, Olympic beach volleyball medalist Misty May-Treanor, former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and former NFL running back Herschel Walker.
Inquirer reporter Jonathan Tamari contributed to this report.