Man who elbowed President Obama in pickup game speaks

Claudine Zap

It’s probably not what he hoped to be known for. But the man responsible for busting President Obama’s lip with his elbow during a basketball game back in 2010 has finally spoken out.

“I had no desire to bring attention to myself in an accident that caused somebody pain. I didn’t want to disrespect the President of the United States,” Reynaldo Decerega, owner of the offending elbow, told the Boston Globe.

The sharp-elbowed player, who also happens to be basketball trainer and coach, hasn't been asked back to play since.

On November 26, 2010, the programs director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute found himself in a pickup game with the president when the elbow incident occurred.

The president took an elbow to the lip and got 12 stitches. Decerega got four stitches on his elbow.

“I felt horrible,” Decerega told the Globe. “I’ve played basketball a million times in my life and I’ve never elbowed anybody. So the first time I do this, it’s to the President of the United States? What is the probability of that? Nil, right?”

Well, unfortunately for Decerega, the probability was 100 percent.

Not that Obama’s split lip was the first presidential injury related to athletic exertion.

George W. Bush in 2004 took a spill while riding his bike on his Crawford, Texas, ranch, suffering some minor scrapes and scratches. After getting cleaned up, he completed the ride.

Former president Bill Clinton required surgery for a torn tendon after he took a tumble on the steps of pro golfer Greg Norman's house in Florida in 1997. Right after surgery Clinton announced, “I feel great,” and asked his doctor how soon he could swing a golf club again.

And Dick Cheney, vice president to George W. Bush, who suffers from congestive heart failure, shot fellow hunter Harry Whittington in the face with birdshot while quail hunting in Texas in 2006.

For his part, to show Decerega that he is a good sport, Obama sent the 40-year-old a gift basket with a photo of the pair’s memorable moment.

"For Rey,” the president signed it, “The only guy that ever hit the president and never got arrested. Barack."