HONOLULU – He entered the arena to loud cheers and made his first appearance on the Jumbotron before tip-off. He sat courtside, just behind the Oregon State bench, and high-fived Beaver fans.
But President Obama’s presence at a college basketball game here on Sunday afternoon was not enough to help the Oregon State University Beavers advance in the Diamond Head Classic, a basketball tournament this week in Hawaii. Oregon State lost to the University of Akron, 83 to 71.
Obama and his family – wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and mother-in-law Marian Robinson – interrupted their beachside vacation in Kailua to cheer on Oregon State at Sunday’s game.
Michelle Obama’s brother, Craig Robinson, is the head coach of the Beavers, one of eight teams playing in the tournament at the Stan Sheriff Center at the University of Hawaii. The championship game will be played on Christmas Day.
The Obamas were joined at Sunday’s game by Craig Robinson’s wife and children, as well as Bobby Titcomb, a friend of the president’s; Sam Kass, the White House chef; and Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman.
Obama is in Hawaii for a 17-day vacation he hoped would take him out of Washington’s political bubble. But it was difficult for him to escape politics entirely. During the game, demonstrators including a man dressed in a full polar bear costume protested against the Keystone Pipeline. One woman held a sign that read, “Beavers Hate Pipelines.”
The protesters began dancing in the arena during a time-out in the second half of the game, although it was unclear if the president noticed them.