Dr. Jill Biden held a virtual fundraiser this evening with three NFL players (past and present) and 100 zoom attendees, the event was dubbed “Gridiron Greats for Biden”. Tickets ranged from $250-$50,000. Former vice president Joe Biden made a brief cameo.
Here’s an outline of the event:
Biden joined Robert Griffin III (aka RG3), quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens and a 2011 Heisman Trophy winner; Emmitt Smith, retired Dallas Cowboys running back and 3x Super Bowl champion and Calvin Johnson Jr., retired Detroit Lions wideout. Of course a lot of football metaphors were tossed around.
Jill Biden, sat in front of open glass doors, looking out on a small body of water, began the meeting by sharing her devotion to the Philadelphia Eagles. She sported a green Eagles T-Shirt and made light of Smith – for being a Cowboy.
“As a Philly girl, I grew up watching the Flyers, the Phillies, and of course the Eagles,” she said. “Some of my favorite memories were watching with my dad cheering so hard the neighbors could hear.”
She discussed the ability for sports to connect people. “I’ve always believed sports are about something more profound than competition. Sports are an international language that teach us to keep hoping even when we’re down, keep fighting even against the odds.”
She talked about how sports created a bond with Beau and Hunter Biden when they were kids, Joe Biden joined the meeting wearing a suit and holding a football.
“Put me in coach. I’m ready to play,” he said.
“I knew he couldn’t stay away!” Jill Biden said.
Biden discussed how he dreamed of playing in NFL. He told a story about how as a sophomore law student at Syracuse University he asked Floyd Little if Little could get him a walk-on spot on the Orange’s football team.
“He said they’re afraid if you walk on we’ll have to carry you off,” Biden said to laughs.
“I had soft hands though. I had soft hands,” Biden said.
“That’s only to catch,” Smith told him.
After a brief exchange, Biden said he was going to leave the meeting and his wife told him, “Go practice catching,” and he left the frame.
She then told about dating Biden – the five marriage proposals and the desire to connect with his sons before becoming part of the family. She drew similarities to her husband’s loss of his child and spouse in a fatal car crash car to the toughness often shown on a football field.
“One of the things we love most about sports is watching people get knocked down and finding the courage to get back up. We need to see resilience demonstrated. We need to be reminded that we are stronger than we think. Because the truth is that sooner or later we will all stumble. We will all suffer heartbreaks – some unimaginable, some that we might think we can’t survive and I’ve always marveled at the strength of Joe and the boys,” she stated.
Biden contrasted the Democratic debates the previous year to a sport, noting that Biden’s challengers “didn’t concede to him, they joined him.” She also told those in the Zoom meeting that the campaign is “a team sport,” and motivated them to get involved.
Griffin, sporting a ‘Be the Change’ shirt, said Biden’s story of toughness connected with him “coming back from injury, having to overcome certain obstacles and still getting up and fighting.”
“I’m just here to be an ally in any type of way that Joe and Jill need me to be. I’ll be the vice president if you need me to be,” Griffin said.
Griffin later remarked that as an active NFL player, getting actively involved in a campaign doesn’t happen often. “The reason I’m doing that is because I have trust…that the Bidens are going to lead us in the right environment and actually have impactful change occur,” he said.
During the question & answer portion of the approximate 45 minute call, someone asked Biden how her husband would help schools and children return to learning safely during the pandemic.
Biden said schools need more finances for protective gear, to make sure classrooms can practice social distancing and for high-speed internet, especially in rural areas given some classes may be taught from home. She emphasized the need for mental health support for children to deal with psychological issues caused by the virus.
A second person questioned what football taught Biden about strength. (Biden played as a freshman at the University Delaware.)
Jill Biden answered by referencing a new children’s book she wrote about her husband’s life, called “Joey,” in which a refrain is “give me the ball.” “I think what Joe learned from sports, especially from football, was you can’t sit back and wait for someone to give you the opportunity. You have to step up,” she said.
Smith said Biden is the type of person who accepts responsibility when he’s in a leadership position and he makes a mistake. “I’ve seen him make decisions during his career…some have been great. Some not so great. But owning up to those mistakes is a sign of great leadership. It’s not a sign of weakness.”
Johnson said as a player he learned that shaking off a bad play and refocusing was critical to success. “He’s able to go on to the next play even if something bad happens and not let those negatives detract from the next play. That’s what I’ve seen out of Joe Biden,” he said.
Griffin referenced a comment Jill Biden had made about Joe Biden always thanking the lineman after he scored a touchdown as evidence he’d call attention to the hidden supporting players in his presidential cabinet.
“One of our most underappreciated positions is offensive lineman. They don’t get glory but they’re doing dirty work,” Griffin said. ”I look at that correlation – he understands that everybody is important.”
A concluding question asked to Biden and the players was what they are hopeful about in 2021.
The trio of players stated they’re hopeful Biden would win the election and that protests over the police killing of George Floyd would cause change.
“America’s divided on two fronts,” Smith said. “We’re divided as a country because of people and color and injustices. We’re also divided because of this pandemic. Having a leader carrying the ball, calling the plays is extremely important.”