President Joe Biden welcomed the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers to the White House on Friday, marking the return to a regular tradition the Covid-19 pandemic had interrupted.
The trip to the White House has long been a hallmark of American sports as victorious teams get a chance to meet the president when their team visits Washington for a game during the following season or during the off-season. The Dodgers were the first team from the four major American sports leagues to visit Biden in the White House after the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers decided to skip their visit in April due to coronavirus concerns. The President has also invited the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the White House after their victory in February.
During the ceremony in the East Room, Biden praised the team for giving their fans so much joy during the difficult 2020 season, which was shortened and played in mostly empty ballparks because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The President said it became more clear than ever in 2020 just how important sports are to the American psyche.
“I think what we discovered is that we need sports more than we ever realized,” Biden said. “We see it now as fans return to ballparks and arenas all across the country, cheering on their favorite teams and players and sharing that sense of community and pride. It’s a uniting feature.”
The event was the first of several at the White House this weekend that will look much like pre-pandemic times. The President is welcoming about 1,000 people to the executive mansion’s South Lawn on Sunday for July Fourth festivities.
During his remarks, Biden thanked the organization for allowing iconic Dodger Stadium to be used for both Covid testing and vaccinations. The President said more than 1 million Covid-19 tests were conducted at the stadium and about a half-million shots were administered there. The organization was also the first American sports team to offer up its stadium as a site for distanced outdoor voting during the 2020 election, according to Biden.
The President — who noted that he roots for the Philadelphia Phillies at the behest of first lady Jill Biden, a fervent supporter of all Philadelphia sports teams — noted that the Dodgers themselves are a point of contention at the highest levels of his administration. Vice President Kamala Harris is from northern California and is a fan of the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers’ rival team, and her husband — second gentleman Doug Emhoff — is from the Los Angeles area and is a lifelong Dodgers fan.
“We’re honored and thrilled they’re here, that goes for the vice president too,” Biden said, with a wry smile. “She’s from California, you probably heard, I’m not going to mention which end of the state she’s from right now and who she roots for. … she’s got a mixed family based on sports.”
Paying tribute to Dodgers stars Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw and Cody Bellinger — and shouting out some of the famous names from the team’s past like Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Jackie Robinson — Biden said the team is an American icon.
“The Dodgers are a lot more than a baseball club, they really are,” he said. “They’re a pillar of American culture and American progress, and that’s for real.”
The visit was also notable for its lack of political controversy in the days before it took place. Former President Donald Trump welcomed several championship teams to the White House during his tenure, but also feuded with several over their objections to his political stances and policy moves. No NBA team visited the White House at all during his tenure and Trump also canceled the Philadelphia Eagles’ visit in 2018 for political reasons.