(WASHINGTON) — President Obama on Tuesday honored the 1972 Miami Dolphins, four decades after their perfect season, welcoming “the only undefeated, untied team in NFL history to the White House for the very first time.”
President Obama admitted at a White House ceremony that it’s “a little unorthodox” to honor a team this long after their championship was won. He joked that some of the players might be a little hard to recognize because “they don’t have the afros or the mutton chops, the Fu Manchus.”
“I know that some people may be asking why we’re doing this after all these years. And my answer is simple: I wanted to be the young guy up here for once,” Obama said, chuckling.
“And let’s face it, this is also just a fun thing to do. I like doing it as president,” he said. “So I decided that it was high time to pay tribute to the NFL’s only perfect team.”
The 1972 Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins to win the Super Bowl, but were never hailed at the White House because President Richard Nixon was immersed in the Watergate scandal.
“We feel honored,” Hall of Fame coach Don Shula said Tuesday, as he presented Obama with a signed team jersey. “It’s been 40 years but, what the hell, we still feel honored.”
Not all the members of the team shared Shula’s sentiment. At least three players, Bob Kuechenberg, Manny Fernandez and Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, reportedly declined the invitation because of their political differences with the president.
“I want to be careful, because mom said if you have nothing good to say about someone, then don’t say anything,” Kuechenberg told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of his decision. “I don’t have anything good to say about someone.”
Tuesday marked the second time Obama has saluted a forgotten team. The 1985 Chicago Bears finally visited the White House two years ago after their initial trip was cancelled when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded two days after their Super Bowl victory.
“That day, I called them the greatest team ever,” Obama recalled of his visit with his hometown team.
“I mean, take it with a grain of salt,” he quipped. “The Bears lost once in their nearly perfect season. It happened to be to the Dolphins.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Dakin Andone, CNN
Paul R. La Monica, CNN
Sara Ganim and Eric Levenson, CNN
Sonia Moghe and Wayne Drash, CNN