On Monday, President Joe Biden received the NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks to the White House. He thanked the team for their support of coronavirus vaccines, and protested the shooting by the police in a Black neighborhood.
“Last year, as a team, you took a stand for justice and peace” after the shooting, Biden said. After Wisconsin prosecutors declined to file charges against Blake’s officer, the Bucks and others boycotted the first round playoff game. This was in protest of the fact that Blake had been partially paralysed by the shooting.
The Bucks were the first NBA champions to visit the White House in five years, following tension between former President Donald Trump and many of the league’s athletes.
The Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry, and other stars were disqualified from the celebration tradition of 2017 because Trump said that he didn’t want to meet him. Thus began the trend of no-shows. Trump declined twice to be seen by the Warriors and Trump failed once by Toronto Raptors.
The Los Angeles Lakers missed the 2015 visit last year due to pandemic safety fears. LeBron James was the final person to visit the White House. In 2016, President Barack Obama celebrated with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said the league won’t force teams to celebrate at the White House, regardless of who’s president.
Biden has previously hosted both the Los Angeles Dodgers (LA Dodgers) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (FL Buccaneers), at the White House, to commemorate their mid-pandemic victories.
The Eastern Conference champ Bucks defeated Phoenix Suns by 4-2 in July. It was their second league title, and the first since 1971.
One of the team’s majority owners, billionaire hedge fund executive Marc Lasry, may be especially familiar to Biden. Avenue Capital Management’s chairman and chief executive, Marc Lasry is a significant Democratic donor. However, the actual gathering in person was cancelled due to pandemic fears.
His son Alex Lasry is the team’s senior vice president and one of several Democratic candidates running for the Wisconsin Senate seat currently held by Republican Ron Johnson.
Marc Lasry joked at the White House, “What the hell, why don’t we come back for the next four years. We’ll just keep coming back. We know what you mean? Let’s do it for eight years.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Biden responded.
The team’s other majority owners are Fortress Investment Group Chairman Wes Edens and York Capital Management Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dinan. Michael Fascitelli is the ex-president and CEO of Vornado Realty Trust. He holds a smaller stake. The group bought the team in 2014 from Biden’s former Senate colleague Herb Kohl, a four-term Wisconsin Democrat who retired in 2013.
Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers has held a 1% ownership stake in Bucks since 2017. A recent positive test for Covid-19 led to the revelation that while he’d claimed to be “immunized” against the virus, he’d not actually been vaccinated.