Photo from Buccaneers’ Twitter account.
By Terrance Turner
July 20, 2021 (updated July 22)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to the White House today to be recognized for their victory in February’s Super Bowl 51. It’s the first time since 2017 that the Super Bowl championship team has visited the White House. There were some notable absences: Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Mike Evans, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and linebacker Lavonte David. But in attendance was quarterback Tom Brady, visiting the White House for the first time since 2005.
Brady skipped the visit in 2015, after the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks. He also missed the visit in 2017, after the Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons. According to a Boston CBS affiliate, Brady cited family concerns as a reason for his absence. (His mother was being treated for breast cancer.) When the Patriots beat the Rams in 2019, scheduling conflicts kept the team from getting to the nation’s capital.
But today, under President Joe Biden, the tradition was renewed. President Biden mentioned the Glazer family (the team’s owners) in his remarks. “To the players, the coaches, and the Glazer family, my good friends, it’s an honor to have you here,” Biden said. (The late Malcolm Glazer purchased the team in 1995. Three of his sons became executive vice-presidents, according to the New York Times.)
“This Buccaneer team is a testament to the fact that it’s never too late to come together and achieve extraordinary things,” Biden said. “Three-quarters of the way through the season, they found themselves in the middle of the pack [at 7-5]. But this is a team that didn’t fold and always got up, dug deep. They won their last four games and stormed through the playoffs — winning on the road in Washington, New Orleans, and Green Bay — and capping it all off back home in Tampa, becoming the first team to win the Super Bowl on their home turf,” Biden said.
The president singled out Chris Godwin, the wide receiver who grew up in Biden’s home state. Godwin was born in Philadelphia, but attended Middletown High School in Delaware. “Born in Pennsylvania, raised in Delaware — where I come from, that’s a heck of a combination,” President Biden said. “Chris, you’re inspiring a whole lot of kids back home in Delaware.”
Biden, who at 78 is the oldest president to take office, praised Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians — the oldest quarterback (age 44) and oldest head coach (at 68) to win the championship. “You know, a lot has been made about the fact that we have the oldest coach ever to win a Super Bowl and the oldest quarterback ever to win the Super Bowl. Well, I’ll tell you right now, you won’t hear any jokes about that from me. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with being the oldest guy to make it to the mountaintop,” Biden said, to applause.
The president lauded Brady as “just about the best to ever play”, commending him for reaching 10 Super Bowls in the past 20 years: “That ain’t bad, man.” Then Biden revealed that he, too, played football. He recalled playing as a kid in the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) in grade school. “I’ll never forget getting knocked out when I was in fifth grade, and my dad walked over and said, “Get up. Get up. Get up. Unless something’s broken, get up.” It was a lesson in resilience, one Biden would return to later on.
Biden also noted the impact of a team on a country ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. “You guys did it the hard way. And I hope you all know just how important it was,” Biden said, “after such a challenging year for the nation. In the middle of a long dark winter, every Sunday, people were able to sit down and watch you play. You created memories that helped folks make it through and believe that we could get back to normal again. And you did it as a team, trailblazing, including the first team with two women [in] full-time coaching positions.”
The president also pointed out that the Raymond James Stadium was an early voting center. (The stadium offered early voting from Oct. 19 to Nov. 1, according to the Bucs’ website). He also acknowledged the stadium for administering the Pfizer vaccine for Hillsborough County residents: “Your stadium also became a lifeline for families in Tampa Bay this season, administering nearly 200,000 vaccine shots.” Biden urged players to get a shot, if they haven’t already. He stressed the importance of getting vaccinated:
“Getting vaccinated is about staying healthy and realizing that no one is invincible, even if you’re young and you’re fit. It’s about looking out for the front-line workers out there, like the ones that played in front of us on Super Bowl Sunday. Those workers remind us of a quintessential lesson about sports and America itself: that no matter how much and how many times we get knocked down, we always get up.”
Bruce Arians later took the podium, choking up as he spoke. “I get emotional,” he began. “This is very, very special. I want to thank our coaches, our players, our entire organization, that did such a great job of coming together and banding together — not to beat the other team; we had to beat the virus first,” he said. “And you sacrificed more than any other team I’ve been around.” He thanked the Glazer family (“the best owners I’ve ever known”) and the “outstanding” players.
“We live by three words: trust, loyalty and respect,” Arians said. “One team, one cause. I hope the Senate and the House start helping you,” he told Biden.
Tom Brady also delivered remarks. “I think what’s behind me is an amazing group of players,” he said. “We bonded together, we worked really hard, we sat our individual agendas aside, and we came together as a team.” Though they are different ages and come from different backgrounds and different schools, Brady said, they are all committed to the team: “Sports has an amazing ability to bring people together.”
Brady threw in some veiled, teasing references to the 2020 election, which Biden’s opponent refused to accept. “Not a lot of people think that we could have won. In fact, I think about 40% of the people still don’t think we won…”
“I understand that,” Biden interjected, to laughs from the audience.
“You understand that, Mr. President?” Brady asked jokingly.
He continued: “We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was. I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing and they started calling me ‘Sleepy Tom’. Why would they do that to me?” Brady asked, making light of the ‘Sleepy Joe’ nickname that Donald Trump gave Biden during the debates.
“You know, we’re on the eve of football season. We start tomorrow — practice — and we’re going to do everything we can to work to achieve another one of those Lombardi Trophies,” Brady concluded. “We’re excited for the opportunity to compete and work hard and show everyone what we’re made of.”
UPDATE (July 22, 2021): Members of the Buccaneers team received their Super Bowl rings today. Each ring is designed with 319 diamonds — representing the 31-9 score by which the Bucs won Super Bowl 51. And for the first time in history, the ring comes with a removable top. Inside the ring is a hand-engraved stadium logo, commemorating the fact that the Buccaneers were the first team in history to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.