WASHINGTON (AP) — Welcoming the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers to the White House was no easy task for President Barack Obama.
The president is a die-hard fan of the Packers' rivals, the Chicago Bears, the team Green Bay beat in last year's conference championship game to move on to the Super Bowl.
"I'm just gonna come out and say it," Obama said. "This hurts a little bit. This is a hard thing for a Bears fan to do. It doesn't hurt as much as the NFC championship game hurt, but it still hurts."
But in the spirit of sportsmanship, the president welcomed the Packers and some of their fans to the White House Friday. He praised the team for overcoming a slew of injuries throughout the season as they marched toward their fourth Super Bowl victory. And he recognized their work in the Green Bay community, citing their millions of dollars raised for charity, scholarships given to local students and support of service members and their families.
The Packers visit to the White House had been delayed because of the National Football League lockout, which ended last month.
Obama singled out Packers cornerback Charles Woodson — but not for his skill on the football field. When Obama traveled to Wisconsin in January, just before the Super Bowl, he received several Packers gifts, including a jersey signed by Woodson that read: "See you at the White House. Go Packers."
"Charles, you're a man of your word," Obama said Friday during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House.
The players then presented Obama not only with a personalized Packers jersey, but also a certificate for a share in the team. The Packers are publicly owned, and more than 100,000 stockholders hold shares in the team.
Once he was made a part owner, the president had some suggestions for the team; namely, trading their quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers to his beloved Bears. No word on how that suggestion was playing in Obama's hometown, and with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler — but the White House moved later in the day to give Obama cover.
White House spokesman Adam Abrams released a statement saying that Obama was actually looking for Rodgers to play as backup quarterback. "The president understands the value of having a reliable backup QB — and would make it more likely that he could greet the Bears at a similar ceremony at the White House next year," Abrams said.
Julie Pace can be reached at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC.