CORONADO, Calif. – Soaking in one of the most spectacular settings of his time in office, President Barack Obama pledged an unwavering commitment to veterans Friday from the deck of an aircraft carrier doubling, for one night, as a gleaming basketball court.
The president’s patriotic message to the military crowd, while welcomed, was secondary to the scene itself. The players from two storied basketball programs, No. 1 North Carolina and Michigan State, competed aboard the USS Carl Vinson in the open air, in the dusk of a perfect San Diego evening.
The first Carrier Classic gave Obama a chance to honor troops and pay tribute on the 95,000-ton Navy warship that buried Osama bin Laden’s body at sea.
There were about 7,000 people in the crowd, both teams wore camouflage versions of their regular uniforms, and two fighter jets screamed above the carrier anchored off the coast of San Diego just as the singing of the national anthem was reaching its final notes.
“Every American citizen can make a solemn pledge today that they will find some opportunity to provide support to our troops, to those who are still active duty, to our national guard, to our reservists and to our veterans,” Obama told the crowd before the game got under way.
The court was surrounded by stands of fans, so no loose balls had a chance of splashing in the water.