August 20th, 2013
02:40 PM ET
11 months ago

No fu manchus, but undefeated '72 Dolphins honored by Obama

Washington (CNN) – Four decades after they became the only NFL team so far to cap a perfect season with a Super Bowl win, the 1972 Miami Dolphins headed to the White House for a public honor from President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

"I know this is a little bit unorthodox four decades after the fact, but these guys never got their White House visit after winning Super Bowl VII," Obama said in the East Room. "Some of them are a little harder to recognize these days. They don't have the afros, the mutton chops, the fu manchus."

Despite the ribbing, Obama said the team had inspired a generation of American fans, including himself.

"I did have to explain to my staff, who mostly are in their early 30s, what an incredible impact these guys had, including on me, when they were playing," he said. "These Dolphins made history back before Super Bowl champs started visiting the White House."

The event was the culmination of a 15-year effort from former Dolphins tight end Marv Fleming, who spent a decade and a half writing letters and talking to public officials trying to get some presidential attention for his old team.

"Every year, I'd see another team, somebody else going to the White House and not us," Fleming said. "Why not us?"

Don Shula, the coach of the 1972 team who spoke at Tuesday's event, also shared his former player's excitement.

"We feel honored," said Shula, who rose from his motorized wheelchair at the end of the event to pose for a photo with the former players and the president. "It's been 40 years, but, what the hell, we still feel honored."

During his remarks, Obama acknowledged that meeting teams that have won college and professional championships was one of the perks of being president – including an event in 2011 honoring the 1985 Chicago Bears, which he called at the time "the greatest team in NFL history."

"Take it with a grain of salt," Obama joked about his past remarks on Tuesday. "The Bears lost once in their nearly perfect season and it happened to be to the Dolphins."

Nearly thirty members of the 1972 Dolphins were present at the White House ceremony, though a few former players told author and columnist Dave Hyde they weren't attending for political reasons.

PHOTOS: Athletes who skipped White House invite

In a recent column for Florida's Sun Sentinel, Hyde, who's also written two books about the undefeated Dolphins, quotes three members of the team - center Jim Langer, Manny Fernandez, and left guard Bob Kuechenberg - saying they planned to skip the event.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: President Obama • White House
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    To those rethugs on the team. Who cares about you. Coach Shula is coming to the WH!!
    I hope another team, I don't care which one, takes your crowning moment away this coming season.

    August 20, 2013 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  2. Stanton Allaben

    Very cool.

    August 20, 2013 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  3. lapazjim

    Just another waste of taxpayer dollars so Obama can fulfill yet another one of his fantasies!But wait "the GOP made me do it"is going to be his answer to this too.

    August 20, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Hmm. I wonder which President started inviting champtionshiop sports teams to the White House, and when? How would you look that up? I dunno. Here's a wild guess. Ronald Reagan invited the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team?.

    August 20, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  5. wwf

    Those three are really showing people are making a point. Just how stupid they are. If they cannot put aside what they say a political reasons long enough to receive this honor with their team mates, then they do not really care about their team mates only of them selves. This is a once in a life time opportunity. They have the rest of their lives to express their "political views". maybe it goes deep than that. Way to go guys.

    August 20, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  6. Data Driven

    I imagine Langer, Fernandez, and Keuchenberg are over on the Obama Family Pet thread, griping about Obama's new dog.

    August 20, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  7. Rick McDaniel

    Why do we have to put up with this kind of stupidity........just because we have a wannabe "jock" in the WH?

    August 20, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  8. Wake up People!

    This POTUS gets disrespected daily. So sad. If it were Reagan or Bush, they would be there on bended knee.

    Congrats to members of the team that are going to attend.

    August 20, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    wwf

    Those three are really showing people are making a point. Just how stupid they are. If they cannot put aside what they say a political reasons long enough to receive this honor with their team mates, then they do not really care about their team mates only of them selves.
    -------------------
    Learn how to read. It is a member of the *losing* team who called for this honor. The right wing takes satire too seriously.

    August 20, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  10. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Hmm. I wonder which President started inviting champtionshiop sports teams to the White House, and when? How would you look that up? I dunno. Here's a wild guess. Ronald Reagan invited the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team?.
    -------–
    Ahhhhhhhh... doubt it. Carter was president then. Reagan wasn't in until almost a year afterward.

    August 20, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. GatorDude

    This is one of those times when it is best to set politics aside. The President is our head of state and The White House is a focal point for national ceremonies and the recognition of outstanding achievement. Regardless of party affiliation, honorary invitees to the White House should attend. This is a non-partisan function.

    Plus, if those who oppose the president's policies are able to forge a non-political friendship with him, they may be better positioned to approach him about political matter at a better time. For example, "I really appreciated the opportunity to attend X ceremony and meet you, but I'd like to let you know how policy Y is adversely affecting my business." It would work if the President was Republican or Democrat. This is how common ground is reached.

    August 20, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  12. Data Driven

    @GatorDude,

    I totally agree with your comment.

    You do realize, however, that we are both living in Fantasyland. America was founded on political compromise; America has now turned into something else. Something that's getting just a bit uglier, bit by bit, each passing year.

    August 20, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    Ahhhhhhhh... doubt it. Carter was president then. Reagan wasn't in until almost a year afterward.
    -------------–
    Maybe. But Carter had a hostage crisis to worry about and a campaign to run. The last thing he needed was to draw attention to himself that showed him not doing his job, which was ending the hostage crisis. I guessed Reagan because USA Hockey had upset the Soviets in dramatic fashion. They even made a 4-star movie about it.

    August 20, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    @Fair – I forgot. Another major strike against Carter was that he had already announced the U.S. boycott of Mexico in early 1980, maybe even prior to the Winter Games that year. Honoring the hockey team would have been bad for his re-election.

    August 20, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Duh, oops. Boycott of MOSCOW.

    August 20, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    @Fair, US Hockey met with Carter a mere four days after their historic upset. Probably helped him to lose.

    August 20, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  17. TNPatriot

    Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Hmm. I wonder which President started inviting champtionshiop sports teams to the White House, and when? How would you look that up? I dunno. Here's a wild guess. Ronald Reagan invited the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team?.
    ---–
    Ahhhhhhhh... doubt it. Carter was president then. Reagan wasn't in until almost a year afterward.
    -------

    Actually it was Calvin Coolidge who invited the 1924 Champion, the Washington Senators to the White House.

    August 20, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  18. Pete

    Boy a feat that hasn't been duplicated nor surpassed..The undefeated "72 Dolphins getting their just reward by our president..Can't get any better than that ,go Dolphins and to all that rail against them ,sore losers as usual!!

    August 20, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. Richard Long

    They were undefeated and won the Super Bowl in... 1972!!! Last time I checked it was 2013.
    Lord Obama, enjoying the spoils of being King.

    August 20, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Fleming calls going to the White House another Super Bowl for him. He said the logjam broke when he talked about his quest with former Washington Redskins offensive tackle George Starke.
    ---------------–
    That guy, George Starke, belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame. He wore number 74. You may not know him by name, but I'm sure you know him by his play on the field. He was one of the first of the supersize lineman in the league, listed at 6' 8", 270 lbs. A guy named Howard Cosell was always pointing him out because the "Redskins favorite play", Riggins off right tackle, was ran right up his back.

    August 20, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    George Starke was a one of a kind offensive lineman. When he lined up, his back was inches higher than the rest of the lineman. Starke was the first of new breed of big, strong, and fast lineman. He started a trend that changed the game.

    Before Starke, no one had seen a guy that big move so fast. He was bigger and stronger than most defensive lineman he faced, hence he was the bread and butter for the Redskns running game. Did Riggins make Starke, or did Starke make Riggns? I'll leave that for the football pundits. One thing is for sure, Starke retooled the train of thought on NFL lineman.

    August 20, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  22. Name

    They only disrespecting obama maybe a black man in the white house, ppl that attended at the white house did good by showing their country no matter whose in it, congratulations guys

    August 20, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  23. Tom B

    Once again CNN reports the urban legend and not the facts. The surviving members of 1972 Dolphins don't all get together have have champagne when the last undefeated team loses every season. Don Shula says "That's the most talked about thing that just doesn't happen."

    August 20, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. Peppey

    I just hope griese quits on every broadcast talking about HIS undefeated season. p.s. bob, you spent most of it on the bench hurt.

    August 20, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  25. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    The President chose to honor a great football team. The players and their fans enjoyed the event. Those three clowns were not missed.

    August 20, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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