President Obama awarded the Whistle of Freedom to Ed Hochuli at a White House ceremony this morning.
"America could not love and respect you more," the president said. "Unfortunately, like so many in this country who do outstanding work, your contributions were not fully appreciated until we could no longer enjoy them. We took you for granted. But on this day, I — and all of the American people — say that Ed Hochuli is a national treasure."
The Whistle of Freedom is the nation's highest referee honor. It is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the national football interests of the United States and world officiating competence.
Hochuli said it was a great honor.
"This is something I never even dreamed of," said the locked out official. "It truly humbles me. But then I remember I'm built like a Greek god and I become less humbled. But it's still neat."
The president was unable to hide his excitement over meeting Hochuli.
"I have had the opportunity to welcome many world leaders and famous people to the White House," he said. "But you, Mr. Hochuli, are by far the greatest who has ever walked through these doors. When we see that you are on TV, we know that an NFL game is in solid hands — unless it's a Chargers-Broncos game, of course," the president added, laughing, referencing the 2008 game that Hochuli blew.
"Ah, it's okay. Everyone makes mistakes. Right, Joe?" Obama said, pointing at his vice president.
The ceremony then ended with Hochuli removing his shirt, oiling himself up and flexing while members of the White House staff took pictures with him.
The honor is expected to clinch a second term for Obama.
"Mitt Romney will likely now come down against Hochuli in order to draw a clear contrast with the president," said NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd. "In this anti-Goodel, anti-replacement referee climate, there is no greater mistake he could make. The American people would rather vote for a President Ahmadinejad than someone who is for the replacement officials."