The Los Angeles Dodgers became the first sports champion to be honored in the White House by President Biden on Friday, restoring a tradition that had been shrouded in partisan disputes during the Trump administration.
Biden welcomed the team, which ended its 32-year title drought with a World Series victory last year.
“The Dodgers are more than a baseball team,” the president said at a White House ceremony. “They are a pillar of American culture and American progress.”
“This is a world championship organization because they have a team full of guys who stepped up when they were called up,” Biden continued.
The team presented Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris with Dodgers jerseys with numbers 46 and 49 on the back. Mr. Biden is the nation’s 46th President and Ms. Harris is the 49th Vice President.
Three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw acknowledged that the team’s championship season was played out as the COVID-19 pandemic raged across the country.
“Our hope is that we were able to bring some joy, comfort and relief to our fans who were going through difficult times,” he said. “It means a lot to us that the fans are coming back to the stadium.”
The Dodgers are in Washington this weekend to play four games against the Washington Nationals.
The tradition of champion teams visiting the White House turned into partisan football under former President Trump. Almost half of the teams that won a championship during his presidency were either not invited or turned down for various reasons.
In 2018, for example, Trump invited Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to the White House. But after reports emerged that only three players would attend the ceremony, Trump canceled the invitation.
However, each of the four World Series winners during the Trump years, including the Nationals in 2019, attended a ceremony at the White House.
The teams’ decisions not to visit the White House divided Americans, some finding it disrespectful, while others applauded the clubs for taking a political stance.
Biden has invited the 2020-21 NBA champions Los Angeles Lakers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won the Super Bowl this year, to the White House. It is not known if or when those teams will appear for a ceremony.