The Phoenix-based Harlem Globetrotters stopped at the Vatican today for what could be one of its largest audiences yet in its 90-year history.
Surrounded by a crowd of more than 50,000 who gathered for the pontiff’s weekly General Audience, they presented Pope Francis with a framed number 90 Globetrotters jersey and named him only the ninth Honorary Harlem Globetrotter in team history.
The prestigious Honorary Harlem Globetrotter accolade recognizes an individual of extraordinary character and achievement who has made an everlasting mark on the world. The “Ambassadors of Goodwill” are preparing for the team’s landmark 90th anniversary tour, which will tip off in the fall.
“We are very humbled by the opportunity to bestow this honor upon Pope Francis,” Harlem Globetrotters CEO Kurt Schneider said in a statement. “His tireless work for the well-being of the poor and elderly, his humanitarian efforts and his commitment to bridge gaps between people of various cultures are ways the Harlem Globetrotters also aspire to touch lives around the world. He embodies the Globetrotters’ efforts to provide service, smiles and sportsmanship globally.”
This marks the eighth time the Globetrotters have had an audience with a Pope. Other visits came in 1951, 1952, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1986, and in 2000, when Pope John Paul II was named the seventh Honorary Harlem Globetrotter in team history at the Vatican. Among others receiving this honor are Dr. Henry Kissinger (1976), Bob Hope (1977), and Nelson Mandela (1996).
The Globetrotters will tip off their historic 90th anniversary world tour in the fall, with over 320 games in North America alone. The Harlem Globetrotters continue a world famous tradition of ball handling wizardry, basketball artistry, and one-of-a-kind family entertainment.
Throughout their history, the Original Harlem Globetrotters have showcased their iconic talents in 122 countries and territories on six continents, often breaking down cultural and societal barriers while providing fans with their first-ever basketball experience. The Globetrotters have entertained hundreds of millions of fans-among them popes, kings, queens and presidents have been part of their audience for more than eight decades.