January 19, 2017
By Amanda Scurlock
President Obama has invited several champions to the White House. Annual NBA champs, Team USA of the Womens’ World Cup and NCAA champions were recognized in the white House. The UConn Women’s basketball team, the reigning NCAA Champions in women’s hoops, made six trips to see POTUS. Players from the Alabama Crimson Tide football team were invited to the White House four times. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat made two consecutive trips each.
The Championship teams would give Obama jerseys with “POTUS” or “Obama” on the back. Intermittently, the number on the jersey would be 44, reflecting on him being our 44th president. Other gifts included autographed basketballs.
POTUS on the Green
Golf has been a go-to sport when Obama is on vacations, his opponents vary from past presidents to childhood friends to iconic athletes. ON his 52nd birthday, Obama played golf with his childhood friends. Over the summer in 2016, Clippers All-Star Chris Paul was his golfing opponent. Former president Bill Clinton was also seen on the green with Obama. NBA Champion Steph Curry and his father, Dell, golfed together on Martha’s Vineyard last summer.
Baseball in Cuba
In 2016, Obama visited Cuba and watched the first MLB exhibition in the country since 1999. He’d been working with Cuban president Raul Castro to improve the relationship with the two countries. During that game, the Tampa Bay Rays played against the Cuban National Team. The baseball game shed light on the strict rules former leader Fidel Castro put on Cuban baseball players to keep them from playing in the United States. At that time, the U.S. Treasury announced a new law that allowed the USA to give salaries to Cubans.
Michelle at the Special Olympics
FLOTUS traveled to Los Angeles to attend the 2015 Special Olympics and welcomed the 6,500 athletes that attended the Opening Ceremony in the L.A. Coliseum. She addressed the Olympians by sharing how their performance instills hope in viewers and how she and Obama was proud of their efforts. Michelle and Obama were the honorary co-chairs of the World Games.
Another way that Obama displayed his passion for basketball was his broadcasts of creating his bracket predictions during March Madness. On occasions, the president’s bracket choices came true. In 2013, Obama correctly called that the California women’s basketball team would reach the Final Four.
Presidential Kiss Cam
The kiss cam is a common attraction at any basketball game. President Obama and Michelle came on the jumbotron for the kiss cam segment when they attended a Team USA basketball exhibition game in Washington D.C. back in 2012. The president and first lady were showcased in the Kiss Cam during the first half of the game, but did not oblige it. The Kiss Cam returned in the second half.
Freedom to Kneel
When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began his national anthem protest, a multitude of voices throughout America sounded off their opinions on the protest. Despite the number of people who did not support the act of protest, Obama mentioned how he respected Kaepernick’s protest. Obama said that the quarterback was “exercising his constitutional right” to kneel during the National Anthem.
For the Love of Chicago
No matter what Championship teams were invited to the White House, Obama had to talk about his favorite team: the Chicago Bulls. This gesture was exacerbated when former Bulls player and Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr visited with the team. Kerr was a teammate of Michael Jordon and helped the Chicago Bulls win three NBA Titles. Although they had the best overall record in the league, Obama did not believe Golden State could break the Bulls 72-win overall record.
Lets Move! With FLOTUS
Michelle Obama’s initiative, Lets Move!, gained the support of pro players in different leagues. The campaign teamed up with the Miami Heat in 2014 and created a YouTube video to show youth how to eat healthy. Later that year, the First Lady also spoke with Richard Sherman about healthy eating as the Seattle Seahawks prepared Salmon cakes and succotash at the White House. Other pros that can be seen in the Lets Move! video series include Dominique Dawes, Shaquille O’Neal, Allyson Felix, and Alonzo Mourning.
Hanging with Steph
Two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry collaborated with our 44th president to promote mentoring. They co-starred in a public service announcement video released by the White House in April 2016 in conjunction with Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. In the humorous video, Obama helped with a volcano science project and defeated the NBA superstar at Connect 4. The video has since earned over three million views.
Medals of freedom for Athletes
Obama honored several athletes with the highest civilian honor. In 2011, Obama honored legendary player Bill Russell for the discrimination he endured during his time in the NBA. Charlie Sifford, the historical golf player who broke the PGA Tour’s color earned a presidential Medal of Freedom briefly before the icon passed away at 92-years-old. Obama recently gave Medals of Freedom to Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Vin Scully.
On his 49th birthday, POTUS invited a group of basketball immortals to the White House for a legendary pick game at the Fort McNair court. Basketball players in attendance were Carmelo Anthony, Maya Moore, Chris Paul, Bill Russell, Grant Hill, Derek Fisher, LeBron James, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Dwayne Wade and others. Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was also present, but did not play. The White House mentoring program participants and wounded veterans were invited to watch the game.
Olympians in the White House
In September 2016, the White House opened its doors to the Team USA 2016 Olympic and Paralympic athletes to honor their efforts in Rio. The U.S. Olympic committee also invited former Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith, the athletes who were involved in the raised-fist protest during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Obama honored the former athletes in wake of the NFL player’s protest that were going on at the time. The athletes presented Obama with a surf board.