Politics can be rough-and-tumble, but it was a friendly basketball game Friday that gave President Obama a cut on his upper lip requiring 12 stitches.
WASHINGTON — Politics can be rough-and-tumble, but it was a friendly basketball game Friday that gave President Obama a cut on his upper lip requiring 12 stitches.
Playing in a pickup game with visiting relatives, administration aides and others, Obama was on defense when a player turned into him to shoot and elbowed him in the mouth, according to the White House account.
The player was Reynaldo Decerega, director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, a White House spokesman said.
“I learned today, the president is both a tough competitor and a good sport,” Decerega said. “I enjoyed playing basketball with him this morning. I’m sure he’ll be back out on the court again soon.”
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The little-known Latino activist became an instant celebrity.
In September, Decerega was chosen by MillerCoors as one of 12 Latino leaders who have helped to strengthen Latino communities across the country. A caucus Web page said Decerega took part in a leadership program arranged by Spain’s government and attended an executive-education program at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Elbow and lip collided in the last of five short games played at Fort McNair, about a 10-minute drive from the White House.
Pictures showed Obama standing near his motorcade in a gray T-shirt, holding a piece of gauze to his mouth. The president was driven back to the White House and treated by the medical unit. He was given a local anesthetic. The stitches were made with a smaller filament than is typically used, which increases the number of stitches but makes a tighter stitch and results in a smaller scar.
Of the nine people playing hoops with Obama, the White House spokesman Robert Gibbs identified three: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, personal aide Reggie Love, and Obama’s nephew Avery Robinson, a high-school senior. Robinson’s father is Craig Robinson, brother of first lady Michelle Obama and coach of the Oregon State University men’s basketball team. OSU is in town for a game Saturday against Howard University.
The team toured the White House on Friday and was supposed to meet the president afterward. But because of Obama’s mishap, the players visited with the first lady instead.
Reporters who gathered later on the White House driveway for the arrival of the Christmas tree saw the president in an upstairs window, pressing an ice pack against his mouth before he stood and walked away.
Obama’s motorcade obeyed all traffic stops, the custom for nonofficial trips, during the return to the White House.
In February, Obama, 49, was deemed to be in excellent health and fit for duty after his first medical checkup as president. Doctors reported then that Obama had yet to kick a smoking habit, takes anti-inflammatory medication to relieve chronic tendinitis in his left knee and should make dietary changes to reduce his cholesterol levels.
Although he has played more golf than hoops since taking office, Obama is an avid recreational basketball player whose pickup games are known to be tough.
Obama played high-school ball in Honolulu. Reggie Love played basketball and football for Duke University, while Duncan played professional basketball in Australia.
Some who have competed against Obama said the players jockey for rebounds and challenge him when he drives the lane. Obama bruised a rib on the day of the Indiana and North Carolina primaries in May 2008, when Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias knocked him to the floor.
On the day Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in Denver, he sat out a pickup game as a precaution.
In a comment that proved prophetic, an Obama friend, Alan S. King, said at the time: “There was a particular concern about not wanting him to turn up with a busted lip.”
Material from The Associated Press and The New York Times is included in this report.
WASHINGTON — The White House shifted into Christmas mode Friday as Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha accepted the gift of an 18 ½-foot Douglas fir from Pennsylvania as the official White House Christmas tree.
The tree was hauled through the White House gates by horse-drawn carriage and presented by tree farmer Christopher Botek. The tree was grown on his family’s Christmas tree farm in Lehighton, Pa., the second time the farm has supplied the White House with its official tree.
Botek’s parents presented a tree in 2006, during the George W. Bush years.
Botek, who brought his wife and two daughters along, said he was honored to hand over the fir.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than this for us as Christmas-tree growers,” he said.
Michelle Obama and her daughters walked around the carriage to inspect the tree, and the first lady bent over to take in the fragrance. She asked her daughters for their opinion, and they gave the tree a unanimous thumbs-up.
“We’ll take it,” she said.
This was about the only thing to say, since the tree was selected months ago by a team of White House officials: the White House grounds superintendent, the chief floral designer, the National Park Service’s horticultural supervisor and the executive residence’s chief usher.
Since 1961, when Jackie Kennedy used a “Nutcracker” motif, the official tree has always held a theme determined by the first lady. Last year Michelle Obama chose a “Reflect, Rejoice, Renew” theme. Her theme for this year will be revealed Wednesday.
The tree will go on display in the Blue Room and is typically the main attraction for the thousands of people who stream through the mansion in December for holiday parties and public tours. White House staffers and volunteers will decorate it.
The White House typically has multiple Christmas trees tucked in various rooms. The Blue Room’s tree is the only official one.
Botek earned the right to donate a tree by winning a National Christmas Tree Association contest.