It’s an understatement to say that President Barack Obama has a passion for sports. On Nov. 9, 2016, after Donald Trump became the president-elect, the president used a sports metaphor in his words to the country:
“I have said before, I think of this job as being a relay runner—you take the baton, you run your best race, and hopefully, by the time you hand it off you’re a little further ahead, you’ve made a little progress. And I can say that we’ve done that, and I want to make sure that handoff is well-executed, because ultimately we’re all on the same team.”
There’s also Obama’s lifelong love affair with basketball which is well-known, but reminiscing about his presidency also conjures up images of the first Black president on some of the world’s best golf courses.
In fact, Obama reached a milestone in August 2016 when he played his 300th round of golf while in office, CBS News reported. Obama is the most avid golfer in the White House since President Dwight Eisenhower, who played an astonishing 800 rounds in office.
Playing all that golf, even though much of it was during vacations, didn’t sit well with many of the president’s critics. The Obamas were vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard when a flood swept through parts of Louisiana. Michael Brown, the former FEMA director who resigned over his botched Hurricane Katrina relief effort, called on Obama to leave the golf course and visit Louisiana.
Others fumed when President Obama appeared indifferent to the beheading of American journalist James Foley and was more interested in his favorite pastime. According to the New York Times, Obama returned to his favorite golf course on Martha’s Vineyard shortly after giving a statement on TV about punishing ISIS and consoling Foley’s parents on the telephone.
And yet golf is not the only sport that holds the president’s heart. One of the first things Obama did at the start of his historic presidency was set up a full-length basketball court at the White House. His passion for the game is deeply rooted in his childhood in Hawaii. It started when his father gave the future president his first ball during a Christmas visit. He played on his high school team and dreamed of becoming a professional ballplayer one day.
He never made it to the NBA, but told GQ that he’s interested in being part owner of an NBA team. Whenever he gets a chance, Obama goes to games to see the pros play, or he entertains them at the White House.
Indeed, Obama doesn’t hide his excitement when he meets top athletes. ABC News aptly stated that “the most powerful man on earth geeks out” during those moments. That was on display when he seized the opportunity to meet Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, during a visit to Jamaica.
It’s no surprise that sports spilled over to diplomacy when the president hosted Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March 2016, just five months after Trudeau’s stunning election victory.
Creating a moment of levity, Obama ribbed Trudeau about American hockey teams winning the Stanley Cup for 23 consecutive years in the National Hockey League.
Standing beside Trudeau, the president commented, “Where’s the Stanley Cup right now? I’m sorry, is it in my hometown with the Chicago Blackhawks? In case you Canadians were wondering, where is it?”
The prime minister went along with Obama’s humor and shot back that the three best Blackhawks players are Canadian.
Obama turned to baseball when walking a diplomatic tightrope in Cuba.
He sat with Cuban President Raúl Castro at an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team during his historic visit to the island.