The Miami Dolphins waited more than four decades before their White House visit.
About 30-35 players from the Dolphins’ 1972 team that went 17-0, won Super Bowl VII and is still the NFL’s only unbeaten team flew up to Washington, D.C., on Monday night for the ceremony, which was paid for by current Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
But a few members of that team — including center Jim Langer, guard Bob Kuechenberg and defensive tackle Manny Fernandez — felt their views strongly opposed those of President Obama and decided not to attend.
One of the players who made the White House trip, Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield, said he understands his players’ feelings.
“I think the office of the presidency is to be respected, but to each his own,” Warfield told FoxSportsFlorida.com after the ceremony. “Those are my former teammates and I respect them. Because we live in a country that gives everyone the right to express their opinions freely, they have that right.
“For me, and for I assume all the guys that came, to have the honor to meet the President of the United States, for him to receive us, was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Safety Dick Anderson said he respected his teammates’ opinions but disagreed.
“Everybody has to make their own mind up,” Anderson told FoxSportsFlorida.com. “My politics may be different than the president’s, but it’s a democracy. I thought it was very foolish that they didn’t join the team, but everybody has a right to make a decision and they missed out on a great celebration.”
The players that attended the ceremony said they were like kids again, walking through the nation’s most famous house. Warfield has embraced history and enjoyed looking at the portraits of past presidents.
“It was just a thrill going into all the rooms, seeing pictures of the presidents an their wives,” said Hall of Fame offensive lineman Larry Little. “It was just a great event.”
Players had dinner together on Monday and then arrived at the White House in the morning.
After the Dolphins’ 1972 season, a year in which they capped the only perfect year in NFL history with a Super Bowl VII championship after a 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins, President Richard Nixon was sidetracked by the Watergate scandal and didn’t invite sports teams to the White House.
On Tuesday, a little over 40 years after, the Dolphins reunited for a ceremony in the East Room. And they were treated like royalty.
“It was great,” Little said. “The president was so up on who we were. He did a great job in talking about us. Before we went into the East room, he shook our hands.
“The highlight was just being there. It was some place that I had always wanted to go.”
Both the Dolphins and President Obama traded barbs. A Chicago Bears fan, Obama noted that his team was nearly perfect in 1985 en route to a Super Bowl title.
Former Dolphins coach Don Shula was quick to remind Obama that it was his Dolphins that ruined the Bears’ perfect run that season (with many of the ’72 Dolphins on the sideline at the Orange Bowl).
Obama also saved a jab for the Dolphins.
“I know that some people may be asking why we are doing this after all these years,” Obama said. “My answer is simple: I wanted to be the young guy up here for once.”