Saying he knows “something about being counted out,” President Biden welcomed the Atlanta Braves to the White House on Monday to celebrate their “unstoppable, joyful” run to the 2021 World Series championship.
“It was a rough start, played through injuries. At the all-star break, not one day with a winning record. Given a 0.4 percent chance of winning on CNN. My batting average isn’t nearly as good,” Biden said, drawing a laugh. “But the franchise never quit, never gave in. You rebuilt the whole outfield practically overnight. Play by play, inning by inning, you ground it out, and you did it together.”
Biden said the Braves were playing with the spirit of Hank Aaron, the Hall of Famer and Braves icon who died in January 2021.
“This team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron, the home run king and 25-time all-star. Hank Aaron shattered a lot of records, but he shattered racism as well, with dignity and with class,” Biden said.
Added Braves Chairman Terry McGuirk: “We still think we have a special angel looking over us, having our recently passed friend Hank Aaron pulling the strings from on high. There’s no question Hank was a part of what we did, and he’d have been there every step of the way if he was here.”
Braves President Alex Anthopoulos and Manager Brian Snitker then presented Biden with a No. 46 jersey, a nod to Biden’s status as the 46th president.
Monday’s reception was a decidedly nonpolitical affair, and there was no mention of Biden’s support of MLB’s decision to strip the Braves of last year’s All-Star Game.
In April 2021, Biden said he “strongly” supported players who were demanding that MLB move that year’s All-Star Game from Truist Park, the Braves’ home stadium in suburban Cobb County, after the Georgia state government enacted changes on voting regulations. Two days after Biden’s comments, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced he was moving the game away from Georgia, saying, “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.” The game was eventually played in Denver.
The move was condemned by Republicans and some Democrats, with Stacey Abrams — a once and future Democratic gubernatorial candidate from Georgia — saying she was “disappointed” because “I don’t want to see Georgia families hurt by lost events and jobs.” (She did, however, commend the players, owners and Manfred for speaking out about the issue.)
Any opposition to the team’s nickname and its fans’ “tomahawk chop” ritual was also unmentioned during the ceremony, but White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre fielded a question about it during Monday’s daily media briefing.
“We believe that it’s important to have this conversation, and Native American and Indigenous voices, they should be at the center of this conversation,” Jean-Pierre said. “That is something that the president believes and something that this administration believes, and he has consistently emphasized that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”
This year’s Braves team has the third-best record in the National League at 95-58 and has clinched a playoff spot. Atlanta, which opens a three-game series against the Nationals in Washington on Monday night, is 1½ games behind the New York Mets in the NL East race with nine games remaining.
“We have a very young and talented roster, and we hope this isn’t a one-and-done visit to your home,” McGuirk told Biden. “In short, we plan to be back.”