Trump comments on Curry, NFL protests anger athletes
SOMERSET, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump denounced protests by NFL players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes and brought swift condemnation Saturday from league executives and star players alike.
Wading into thorny issues of race and politics, Trump’s comments in a Friday night speech and a series of Saturday tweets drew sharp responses from some of the nation’s top athletes, with LeBron James calling the president a “bum.” Hours later, Major League Baseball saw its first player take a knee during the national anthem.
Trump started by announcing that Curry, the popular two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors, would not be welcome at the White House for the commemorative visit traditionally made by championship teams: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
Later, Trump reiterated what he said at a rally in Alabama the previous night — that NFL players who kneel for the national anthem should be fired, and called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to tell them to stand. Goodell and several team owners criticized the comments
The Warriors said it was clear they were not welcome at the White House.
Curry had said he did not want to go anyway, but the Warriors had not made a collective decision before Saturday — and had planned to discuss it in the morning before the president’s tweet, to which coach Steve Kerr said : “Not surprised. He was going to break up with us before we could break up with him.”
Others had far stronger reactions.
“U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going!” James tweeted in a clear message to the president — a post that Twitter officials said was quickly shared many more times than any other he’s sent. “So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”
Curry appreciated James’ strong stance.
“That’s a pretty strong statement,” Curry said. “I think it’s bold, it’s courageous for any guy to speak up, let alone a guy that has as much to lose as LeBron does and other notable figures in the league. We all have to kind of stand as one the best we can.”
Curry added that he doesn’t believe Trump “respects the majority of Americans in this country.”
James also released a video Saturday, saying Trump has tried to divide the country.
“He’s now using sports as the platform to try to divide us,” James said. “We all know how much sports brings us together. ... It’s not something I can be quiet about.”
Warriors general manager Bob Myers said he was surprised by the invitation being pulled, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was disappointed that the Warriors won’t be at the White House.
“The White House visit should be something that is celebrated,” Myers said. “So we want to go to Washington, D.C., and do something to commemorate kind of who we are as an organization, what we feel, what we represent and at the same time spend our energy on that. Instead of looking backward, we want to look forward.”
Added Kerr after his team’s first practice of the season, “These are not normal times.”
Bruce Maxwell, an African-American player for the Oakland Athletics, became the first major league baseball player to kneel during the national anthem. Teammate Mark Canha, who is white, put his right hand on one of Maxwell’s shoulders during Saturday night’s anthem. The Athletics released a statement saying they “respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”