WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden received the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks to his White House residence on Monday. He praised the team for their accomplishments on the court as well as for their efforts in promoting coronavirus vaccines. Biden also praised the members of the team for speaking out after Jacob Blake's 2020 police shooting sparked protests at Kenosha.
The Bucks became the first NBA champions in five years to visit the White House, ending the Donald Trump-era hiatus.
Biden stated, "You stood for justice and peace after the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha (Wisconsin) and you've got people engaged."
After the Bucks said they wouldn't participate in Game 5 in a first round playoff series, the NBA delayed games for 2020. They were trying to highlight racial injustices faced by African American communities.
Giannis Antetokounmpo's Bucks seemed excited to return to the NBA tradition of NBA champs visiting Washington. Antetokounmpo posted a video of himself practicing greeting the president on social media.
Antetokounmpo helped Bucks end a 50 year drought and bring home a NBA championship for first time since Lew Acindor (the Hall of Famer who changed his name later to Kareem AbdulJabbar after converting Islam) and Oscar Robertson.
Biden spoke about Antetokounmpo’s humble childhood before he rose to prominence in the NBA. Antetokounmpo was born in Greece to Nigerian immigrant parents. He said that after the ceremony he felt emotional listening to Biden's story. He was proud that the president brought up his activism and that of his fellow teammates.
He said, "What we did was unprecedented in sport." "I am proud of my teammates for being able to remain in the locker room and talk about it, voice their opinions. ... "I was able take a stand in support of something I believe.
Biden also paid tribute Ted Kellner (a Wisconsin businessman, philanthropist, who served as the honorary chairman for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Milwaukee) and Herb Kohl (a Democrat who was a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin for four terms starting with the 1988 elections).
Biden mentioned that Kellner helped him save his first run for U.S. Senate in 1972 by providing cash infusions when he was short of funds.
Marc Lasry, current Bucks owner, slyly suggested that he hopes the team continues to come back to celebrate championships so long as Biden remains president.
Lasry said, "What the heck, why don’t we come back to the next four years?" Lasry agreed. Lasry said, "Let's do this for eight years."
No matter what party the sitting president is, he or she often honors college and major league sports champions with an annual White House ceremony. This is usually nonpartisan and involves the commander-in-chief paying tribute to the champs, taking photos, and walking away with a team jersey.
Celebratory visits were a hot topic during Trump's presidency, when many athletes took issue Trump's rhetoric and policies on immigration and policing.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were the last NBA team to visit Washington, just days after Trump's election and while Barack Obama still held office.
This story used information from The Associated Press.