Tom Brady, champion Buccaneers visit Biden at White House
By STEPHEN WHYNO
WASHINGTON (AP) — Tom Brady embraced his inner comedian to deliver jokes at old friend Donald Trump’s expense Tuesday when he and the Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers visited President Joe Biden at the White House, the first visit by the reigning NFL champions since 2017.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion who once was gifted a “Make America Great Again” hat from Trump that he displayed in his locker at Gillette Stadium compared those backing Trump’s false assertion that he won the 2020 election to people who couldn’t believe the underdog Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Not a lot of people think that we could have won, and in fact I think about 40% of the people still don’t think we won,” Brady said. “You understand that, Mr. President?”
“I understand that,” Biden responded.
Brady also played off Trump’s derisive “Sleepy Joe” nickname for Biden when talking about a time he forgot what down it was.
“I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing, and they started calling me ‘Sleepy Tom,’” Brady said with a grin. “Why would they do that to me?”
It was Brady’s first visit since 2005 with the New England Patriots when George W. Bush was in office. Brady has won the Super Bowl during four different administrations but skipped visits by the Patriots in 2015 with Barack Obama and 2017 with Trump. The Patriots as a team chose not to attend after winning in 2019.
Brady was front and center this time, one of 42 Bucs players accompanying Biden, coach Bruce Arians and owner Bryan Glazer to the ceremony, which included more than just his jokes. There was some pointed political commentary from Arians and a push from the president for players to get vaccinated against the coronavirus if they hadn’t already.
Arians quickly shifted from extolling his Buccaneers’ guiding principles of “trust, loyalty, and respect” that focused the team on “one team, one cause” to taking an indirect dig at Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill who have opposed elements of the president’s agenda.
“I hope the Senate and the House start helping you,” Arians said to Biden. “One team, one cause.”
Biden was presented with the traditional gift of a No. 46 jersey — which Glazer said was appropriate since Tampa Bay is heading into its 46th season as a franchise. With the sun beating down in the late morning, Biden told players to take their suit jackets off following a group picture, but those in attendance next to the Lombardi Trophy didn’t mind.
“I know the guys really, really enjoyed it, even with the heat,” said Arians, who’s eager for the Buccaneers to get their Super Bowl rings Thursday and move on to next season with training camp opening next week. “I just told them it’s another work day. We got to get a workout in today, so standing in the sun’s a good one.”
Before baking in the sun, players Donovan Smith and Bradley Pinion from the team’s social justice committee met with Vice President Kamala Harris to talk about voting rights, a subject the Buccaneers have prioritized.
“It feels like it gives us validity or the weight of some of the stuff that we were doing in Tampa, especially around voting and getting people to vote,” offensive lineman Ali Marpet said after the ceremony. “As an organization we’re really trying to be leaders in (that area), and that was a big point of emphasis for her.”
Talking about how nearly 200,000 vaccine doses were given out at Raymond James Stadium — the Buccaneers’ home and where they won the Super Bowl — Biden turned to dozens of players behind him and said: “If you don’t have a shot, get one, OK? Get one, get one, get one. You’re saving lives, helping us get back to our lives and our loved ones.”
Biden also lauded NFL efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccinations.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not directly answer when asked if the Buccaneers provided information on which team attendees were vaccinated. Over half of their traveling party of players coached and staff has been fully vaccinated, and while 10 NFL teams as of Friday had reached the 85% threshold it’s unclear if Tampa Bay was one of them.
Biden in his prepared remarks singled out receiver Chris Godwin, like himself Pennsylvania-born and Delaware-raised, who he spoke with before the Super Bowl.
“I wasn’t expecting it, so it definitely took me by surprise,” Godwin said afterward. “He gave me a call the day before the Super Bowl, and I was shocked then. We chatted, had a five-, 10-minute talk, talked about Delaware a little bit and he wished me good luck. That was an honor for me. Then he was kind enough to send me a letter afterwards congratulating me on the win and congratulating the team.”
As the oldest person to become president, Biden compared himself to Brady being the oldest quarterback and Arians the oldest coach to win it all.
“You won’t hear any jokes about that from me,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with being the oldest guy to make it to the mountaintop.”
Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.