Biden welcomes NBA’s money for championship and activism – NBC Los Angeles

President Joe Biden welcomed NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks to the White House on Monday and praised team members not only for their achievements on the field, but also for their efforts to promote the coronavirus vaccinations and to stand up after the shooting of Jacob Blake by the Police in 2020 to voice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The Bucks were the first NBA champions to visit the White House in nearly five years, ending a hiatus from the Donald Trump era.

“You campaigned for justice and peace after the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and you engaged the people,” Biden said. The NBA postponed games in 2020 after the Bucks announced they would not participate in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series to shed light on the allegedly racist injustices that African American communities have faced.

The Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, seemed really excited to return to the tradition of NBA champions visiting the White House. Antetokounmpo even posted a video on social media practicing his greeting for the president.

Antetokounmpo helped the Bucks end a 50-year drought and won an NBA championship for the first time since Lew Alcindor (the Hall of Famer who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after converting to Islam) and Oscar Robertson home.

Biden spoke of Antetokounmpo’s humble upbringing before he became famous in the NBA. Antetokounmpo, who was born in Greece to Nigerian immigrants, said after the ceremony that he became emotional telling his story to Biden. He was also proud that the president highlighted his activism and that of his teammates.

“What we did had never happened in sport,” he said. “I’m proud of my team-mates that we were able to stay in the locker room, talk about it, express our opinions. … I was able to stand up for something I believe in.”

The incumbent president, regardless of party, often honors the major leagues and some college sports champions with a ceremony in the White House, usually non-partisan affairs, in which the commander-in-chief recognizes the champions’ skills, poses for photos, and wears a team jersey.

The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 and won the 2021 NBA Finals.

But the ceremonial visits were heavily charged during the Trump presidency as many athletes questioned Trump’s policies and rhetoric regarding policing, immigration, and more. For his part, Trump did not respond well to criticism from athletes or their political expressions on the field.

Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, a multi-billion dollar hedge fund manager, is a prominent Democratic funder.

His son and senior vice president of the team, Alex Lasry, is on leave as he battles Republican Senator Ron Johnson in a crowded Democratic nomination race for a seat in the Wisconsin Senate.

Biden did not directly mention the Lasrys’ democratic connections. But the president first paid tribute to Ted Kellner, a Wisconsin businessman and philanthropist who served as honorary chairman of the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, and former Bucks owner Herb Kohl, a former Wisconsin Democratic Senator.

Lasry smartly suggested he hope the team keep coming back to celebrate championships while Biden is president.

“What the hell, why aren’t we coming back for the next four years?” Said Lasry. “Let’s do it for eight years.”

The last NBA team to visit the White House were the Cleveland Cavaliers, just days after Trump’s presidential election and while Barack Obama was still in office.

Trump preemptively dumped the 2017 Golden State Warriors after the team’s biggest star, Steph Curry, told reporters he planned to vote no if the players got together to decide whether to visit the White House.

The next year, Trump said no invitation to the NBA champions would come until the playoffs even ended when Curry’s Warriors faced the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, in the finals. James was an outspoken critic of Trump.

The Toronto Raptors visited the Canadian Parliament after winning the 2019 NBA Final, but the players made it clear they weren’t interested in visiting the White House. The 2020 Los Angeles Lakers championship, also led by James, came after the White House suspended such visits because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump also dumped the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, the 2018 Super Bowl champions, after several players said they would not attend a celebration at the White House with Trump.

Trump sharply criticized NFL players who kneeled down during the national anthem to shed light on the issue of police brutality affecting black men and women.

Associate press writer Zeke Miller contributed to the coverage.

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