Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on January 20 at the end of a long campaign trail. Eighteen days later, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl LV to cap an unforgettable 2020 season. Both Biden and the Buccaneers achieved their goals with a backdrop of a nation gripped by a deadly pandemic. On Tuesday, the POTUS praised the Buccaneers for their perseverance under those circumstances and let them know how much it meant to the country.
"You guys did it the hard way and I hope you all know just how important it was after such a tough year for the nation," said Biden. "In the middle of a dark winter, every Sunday we 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. And you did it as a team."
Biden offered up that praise during a ceremony at the White House to celebrate the Buccaneers' second championship season, speaking at a podium on the edge of the South Lawn. Behind him, dozens of Tampa Bay players and coaches were arrayed on the steps leading up to the State Floor. They were part of a contingent of more than 100 players, coaches and staff members, as well as the Glazer Family, to make what Head Coach Bruce Arians called "a kind of spur-of-the-moment" trip to the nation's capital on Tuesday.
"This Buccaneer team is a testament to the fact that it's never too late to come together and achieve extraordinary things," said the president. "Three-quarters of the way through the season they found themselves in the middle of the pack, seven wins and five losses. But this is a team that didn't fold and always got up, dug deep. They won their last four games of the [regular] season and then stormed through the playoffs, winning on the road in Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay. And capping it all off back home in Tampa to become the first team to win the Super Bowl on their home turf with a decisive victory against the defending champs, the Kansas City Chiefs. It's an incredible run by one of the most well-rounded teams in recent memory."
After Biden's speech, Owner/President Bryan Glazer, Head Coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Tom Brady all took to the podium as well, and all touched on the same theme of perseverance and sacrifice in overcoming the virus as well as their final eight opponents.
"We bonded together, worked really hard, put our individual agendas to the side and came together as a team," said Brady.
Bryan Glazer said the Bucs got their invite to the White House because the 2020 team "did the impossible," but also called the Bucs' White House visit an honor "20 years in the making." That's because the team did not get to make the customary trip to see the president after winning Super Bowl XXXVII due to world events. Fortunately, the team's incredible journey in 2020 did include a trip to Washington, D.C., for which Arians was very grateful. He had made two previous White House trips as an assistant with the Steelers but felt the gravity of the moment even more when standing close to the president on the main stage.
View photos of the Buccaneers visit to the White House to celebrate Super Bowl LV.
"Just the honor, the honor of standing next to the president, just being invited," said Arians. "We know what's going on with the country right now so he's got a lot of [things] to do. For him to bring us in was very, very emotional for me."
Even with those emotions and the many words about perseverance, the ceremony still had a festive feel to it, which meant there were plenty of lighter moments mixed in. Brady got the most laughs from the crowd with well-delivered jokes about election-result denials, presidential nicknames, Lombardi Trophy tossing and a supposed pickup football game with White House interns. Arians molded the Bucs' 'One Team, One Cause' motto into a call for more bipartisan agreement in the House and Senate. And Biden clearly enjoyed spending time with the oldest head coach and oldest quarterback ever to hoist that Lombardi Trophy.
"A lot is made about the fact that we have the oldest coach to win the Super Bowl and the oldest quarterback to win the Super Bowl," said Biden, who just happens to be the oldest person ever elected President of the United States. "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 also took a moment to single out wide receiver Chris Godwin from the array of players behind him thanks to the shared connection of Delaware as their home state.
"Honestly, it was really, really cool," said Godwin. "Just being out here with the guys and celebrating this joyous occasion is really an honor, and for him to mention me specifically was definitely an honor. I wasn't expecting it so it definitely took my by surprise. It's an honor, it's cool. I remember watching things like this when I was younger, watching all the championship teams come here. To be here in this moment is unbelievable."
The Buccaneers arrived at the White House around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday and, after going through security, headed first to the South Lawn to rehearse the procedure for the later ceremony. The team then was invited into the White House for a tour of the State Floor. That area includes the Grand Foyer, the State Dining Room, the East Room and the Red, Blue and Green Rooms and features dozens of historical paintings and artifacts. There were plenty of spots for selfies and posed pictures, and a sense of history that the visiting players appreciated.
"Truthfully, I'm honored to be here," said Ndamukong Suh. "Just having the opportunity to be invited, first and foremost, is not always afforded to everybody, so being able to accept that and be a part of this was really just more than exciting. For me, going on my 12th season now, it's been a long time coming."
The team spent more than an hour exploring the State Floor, and during that time President Biden had private audiences with Arians, Brady, Godwin, General Manager Jason Licht and others. Meanwhile, Donovan Smith and Bradley Pinion – both members of the Buccaneers' Social Justice Committee – went to the West Wing to meet privately with Vice President Kamala Harris and discuss the issue of voting rights. The players' input was well-received by the Vice President.
"It was definitely something that she's passionate about, for sure," said Smith. "You could just tell through the conversation. And that's huge. We have to make sure that we do not try to take away people's right to vote. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to vote.
"We just stressed the importance of everybody using their rights, being an American, and go out there and vote. It's one way to get our voices heard. We just stressed the importance of that and staying on top of it now, keep going with what we already started. We don't have to wait until the time gets here to promote it and get things going and set things up."
The Buccaneers left the capital shortly after the ceremony ended and flew back to Tampa in the afternoon. They hope to make a similar trip next year if they can successfully defend their Super Bowl title in 2021. As Bryan Glazer pointed, that would provide some neat symmetry with the 46th POTUS, as the upcoming season will be the 46th for the franchise.
Before that potential trip, however, Biden is likely to welcome another group of champions from the Bucs' home. The NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, winners of the last two Stanley Cups, should be the net team on the White House docket.
"To the players, the coaches, the Glazer Family – my good friends – it's an honor to have you here," said Biden during the ceremony. "We have to say that the fans down in Western Florida are having a pretty good year this year. I tell you – the Stanley Cup in addition to the Super Bowl. They're making a pretty strong case to start calling Tampa the City of Champions."