WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden welcomed the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks to the White House on Monday, hailing team members not only for their achievements on the court, but their efforts to promote coronavirus vaccinations and speaking out after the 2020 police also praised for The shooting of Jacob Blake triggered protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Bucks were the first NBA champions to visit the White House in nearly five years, ending a Donald Trump-era hiatus.
“In the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, you took a stand for justice and peace, and you’ve engaged the people,” Biden said. The NBA postponed games in 2020 after the Bucks announced they would not participate in Game 5 of the first-round playoff series because they shed light on what they said about racial injustice facing African-American communities. was asked to enter.
The Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, seemed really excited to return to the tradition of NBA champs at the White House. Antetokounmpo also posted a video on social media practicing greetings for the president.
Antetokounmpo helped the Bucks end a 50-year drought, with Lew Alcindor (Hall of Famer who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after converting to Islam) and Oscar Robertson after leading the team. Brought home the NBA Championship for the first time.
Biden spoke about Antetokounmpo’s humble upbringing before he rose to fame in the NBA. Antetokounmpo, who was born in Greece to Nigerian immigrants, said he got emotional as he told his story to Biden after the ceremony. He was also proud that the President highlighted the activism of him and his colleagues.
“What we did never happened in the game,” he said. “I am proud of my teammates that we were able to be in the locker room, talking about it, expressing our opinion. … was able to take a stand for what I believed in.”
The sitting president, regardless of party, often honors the major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, usually in nonpartisan cases in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ skill, for photographs. Comes prepared and comes with team jersey.
But the celebratory tour became highly charged during the Trump presidency as many athletes took issue with Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, did not take kindly to his on-field expressions of criticism of athletes or political opinion.
Bucks co-owner Mark Larry, a billionaire hedge fund manager, is a major Democratic donor.
His son and the team’s senior vice president, Alex Larry, is on vacation as he races in a crowded race for the Democratic nomination for one of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seats, seeking a chance to take on Republican Sen. Is for.
Biden made no direct mention of Larry’s Democratic ties. But the president began his remarks by paying tribute to Ted Kellner, a Wisconsin businessman and philanthropist who served as honorary president of the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, and former Bucks owner Herb Kohl, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Wisconsin. .
Larry smartly suggests that he expects the team to keep coming back to celebrate the championship as long as Biden is president.
“What’s the matter, why don’t we come back for the next four years?” Lasari said. “Let’s do it for eight years.”
The last NBA team to visit the White House was the Cleveland Cavaliers, just days after Trump was elected president and while Barack Obama was still in office.
The team’s biggest star, Steph Curry, told reporters that Trump pre-invited the Golden State Warriors in 2017, telling reporters that when the players came together to decide whether to visit the White House, they chose to vote. planned.
The following year Trump said no invitations to the NBA champs were coming before the playoffs ended as the final pitted Curry’s Warriors against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. James was a vocal critic of Trump.
The Toronto Raptors visited Canada’s parliament after winning the 2019 NBA Finals, but the players made it clear they were not interested in a visit to the White House. The 2020 championship, won by the Los Angeles Lakers, also took place under James’s leadership after the White House halted such visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump also dismissed the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, the 2018 Super Bowl champs, after several players said they would not attend the White House festivities with Trump.
Trump was fiercely critical of NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem as part of an attempt to highlight the issue of police brutality affecting black men and women.
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed reporting.