NFL quarterback Tom Brady joked alongside President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE at a White House ceremony Tuesday that 40 percent of the country doesn’t believe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, alluding to the considerable percentage of Republicans who polls show do not accept Biden’s election victory.
“Not a lot of people, you know, think that we could have won,” Brady joked. “And in fact I think about 40 percent of the people still don’t think we won.”
“I understand that,” Biden responded, laughing.
Brady also quipped that people started calling him “Sleepy Tom” after a game in Chicago, a reference to former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE’s nickname for Biden during the campaign.
A Monmouth University Poll survey released in March found that about two-thirds of Republicans do not believe Biden legitimately won the election after Trump repeatedly cast doubt on the results and claimed falsely that there was widespread fraud in the vote.
Biden welcomed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the White House on Tuesday to celebrate their February victory in Super Bowl LV with a ceremony on the South Lawn. Tampa Bay defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9, only their second victory in the NFL championship game after winning the title in 2003.
The event was Brady’s first visit to the White House in almost a decade.
Brady, who expressed some support for Trump when he first campaigned in 2016, hadn’t attended a trip to the White House to celebrate his team since winning the Super Bowl as a New England Patriot in 2005. Brady won six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots and captured his seventh after joining the Buccaneers last season. Brady did not attend the White House when the Patriots visited in 2017 to celebrate their Super Bowl win that year.
Biden took a photo with the team and Brady gifted him a Tampa Bay jersey with the number 46 and the name Biden written on the back. The president delivered brief remarks, commending the team’s victory and saying they offered Americans a source of joy during what was a difficult year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the middle of a long dark winter every Sunday people were able to sit down and watch you play,” Biden said. “You created memories that helped folks make it through and believe that we could get back to normal again.”
Biden, who at 78 became the oldest person to assume the presidency this year, at one point also joked of Brady that there is “nothing wrong with being the oldest guy to make it to the mountaintop” after Brady, 43, became the oldest player to appear in the Super Bowl.
Dozens of White House officials and other guests attended the ceremony, including second gentleman Doug EmhoffDoug EmhoffBush calls out domestic extremism in 9/11 speech Bush urges Americans on 9/11 to embrace unity, reject politics of 'fear' Harris in Shanksville honors heroism, courage of Flight 93 passengers MORE, White House climate adviser Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyInterior announces expansion of hunting and fishing rights across 2.1 million acres Time to rethink Biden's anti-American energy policies Solar could provide 40 percent of US power generation by 2035, Biden administration says MORE and NASA Administrator Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonElon Musk mocks Biden for ignoring his company's historic space flight How will Biden's Afghanistan debacle impact NASA's Artemis return to the moon? Biden to talk Russia, anti-corruption with Ukraine's president MORE. No one wore masks.
Biden took a moment during his speech to turn to the players behind him and urge any who haven’t received a coronavirus vaccine yet to do so.
“You all who don’t have a shot, get one, OK?” Biden said after mentioning that the Buccaneers' Raymond James Stadium was used to administer coronavirus vaccine shots. Coach Bruce Arians responded, “Amen.”
Press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiReporters lodge complaint with White House over Biden-Johnson meeting access White House faces increased cries from allies on Haitian migrants Harris 'deeply troubled' by treatment of Haitian migrants MORE told reporters at a later briefing that the White House has protocols for visitors, without detailing them, and wouldn’t say if the White House knew which players haven’t received the vaccine.
“The president is vaccinated and he, that means, is protected. We follow public health guidelines and guidelines provided by our own medical experts,” Psaki said.
Since his inauguration in January, Biden has welcomed one other professional sports team to the White House, hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers in June to celebrate their victory in the 2020 World Series.
The lighthearted events with champion sports teams are a hallmark White House activity, but like other large gatherings have diminished during the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the Dodgers were the first professional sports team to visit the White House since the onset of the pandemic.
News broke shortly before the start of the event that a White House staffer and an aide to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats seek to cool simmering tensions Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power MORE (D-Calif.) tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated after attending an event together last week.
—Updated at 1:20 p.m.