President Barack Obama welcomed the Super Bowl XLIX champions New England Patriots to the White House on April 23. The president paid tribute to the Patriots for their latest Super Bowl title.
President Barack Obama honored the Super Bowl XLIX champions New England Patriots at the White House on April 23.
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According to Jenna Brayton of the White House's official website, the president welcomed the Patriots at the South Lawn on Thursday to celebrate their latest championship. The tribute is part of the president's thrust to recognize athletes for their contributions within their respective sports and the community at large.
President Obama commended the Patriots for visiting schools and hospitals as part of the NFL's Play 60 Initiative. He also made special mention of the Patriots Marathon Team for taking part in this year's Boston Marathon. The team successfully raised $230,000 for charity, per Brayton.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave the president a team jersey and a signed helmet during the proceedings. Erik Scalavino of Patriots Football Weekly says the No. 44 on the jersey signifies Obama's presidency.
The latter also joked with the Patriots, asking them if they'd be willing to "share some of the titles you keep winning with Chicago," per the White House's official website.
President Obama is a former Illinois Senator who roots for the Chicago Bears.
He made a few "DeflateGate" jabs at the Patriots but also called them "as good an organization as there is in professional sports," per ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss.
The president said he likes to crack a few jokes whenever he pays tribute to championship teams but was concerned "11 out of 12 might fall flat" with New England. He then looked back at Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who smiled and gave a thumbs-down sign, per Reiss.
It was at this time when Obama quipped, "That whole story got blown a little out of proportion."
Another Obama joke was directed at Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, whom he told to keep his shirt on.
"He asked me what would happen if he took it off," Obama told the people in attendance (via ESPN Boston). "I said the Secret Service probably wouldn't like it. He said, 'What could they do to me?'"
Obama also took a shot at Belichick, who likes to wear short-sleeved hoodies while coaching on the sideline, per Scalavino.
"I'm particularly grateful that Coach decided to dress up today," the president told Scalavino and those in attendance. "We had some scissors, if he wanted to cut the sleeves off [his suit]. Formal hoodies are allowed."
At the end of the ceremony, Belichick told Reiss and other reporters that the president is a "pretty engaging guy."
For his part, Kraft also paid homage to Obama.
"We appreciate your loyal roots to [Chicago], but we think you should have an AFC team," he told the president (via Patriots Football Weekly). "As the leader of the free world, you truly are the ultimate patriot."
The team dropped by the Walter Reed Medical Center before going to the White House. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wasn't able to join his teammates due to a family matter, per Reiss.
Scalavino adds more details about how the Patriots White House tour on Thursday went:
"Before and after the ceremony, players, coaches and team staff were allowed to roam freely inside the East Wing and outside on the South Lawn. Most posed for pictures and snapped photos of the lovely interior of the most famous residence in the world."
The president's full remarks during the tribute for the New England Patriots can be read here.
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