Early Saturday morning, Donald Trump tweeted that Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are disinvited from visiting the White House.
Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
During Friday’s media session, Curry (as well as Kevin Durant and David West) emphasized that he wouldn’t visit Trump in the White House as most NBA champions do. The team was originally intending to hold a team vote and come to a decision sometime next week. Though the team was almost surely going to decline the invitation, now it won’t even be necessary and the Warriors have garnered wide ranging support in their position.
The NBA community is taking a stand against Trump
Trump’s jab at Stephen Curry has hardly gone unnoticed in the NBA community. Michele Roberts, the executive director of the NBPA, tweeted her support for Stephen Curry soon after Trump’s attack. Former NBA star Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, whose lasting legacy is standing up for political beliefs, echoed Roberts’ sentiments in a tweet. Hall of Famer Magic Johnson tweeted his support of the Warriors. And the list goes on: other stars like Chris Paul and sportswriter Bill Simmons have also tweeted their support of Curry.
For one day at least, Warriors and L.A. Lakers fans can stand together. But as much as Trump has inspired the NBA community to put aside their rivalries and come together, the points that LeBron James and Kobe Bryant highlight the broader significance of Trump’s latest foray into sports criticism.
James, Curry’s biggest on-court rival, clapped back at Trump as well by tweeting that Trump is a “bum” who has dishonored the White House. Kobe Bryant tweeted in response to the su that Trump’s “...name alone creates division and anger.”
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
A #POTUS whose name alone creates division and anger. Whose words inspire dissension and hatred can't possibly "Make America Great Again"— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) September 23, 2017
In short, the only thing Trump has proven effective at is injecting racial animus into the national conversation to galvanize his base. And in recent weeks, that has extended to sports.
Trump’s racialized attacks on athletes
Steph Curry is not the first black athlete to be targeted by Trump’s disgust. At a rally on Friday, Trump criticized Colin Kaepernick for his protest of racism and police brutality during the national anthem. He said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out, you’re fired!’ ”
And about two weeks ago, when ESPN employee Jemele Hill called Trump a white supremacist, the Trump administration went on an angry rampage against ESPN. Trump tweeted out a condemnation of ESPN, calling them to “apologize for untruth!”, and his spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders called for Hill’s firing.
And it’s not just black people in sports he has been lambasting—it’s a pattern that also includes the Central Park Five, Susan Rice, and Barack Obama.
We all have light eyes? https://t.co/9nd3MJmgGm— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 23, 2017
With so many pressing issues confronting the United States today, the fact that Trump is focusing so much on sports media and culture is incredibly telling. What Stephen Curry, Colin Kaepernick, and Jemele Hill have in common is they are black people who have unapologetically called out Trump for his racism.
Trump’s criticisms of these three have been more immediate and forceful than his condemnations of Nazis and other white supremacists, which simply cannot go unnoticed.
Black people in the United States have few avenues to express their opinions because their opportunities in many fields are unjustly and unfairly restricted, as described by The Brookings Insitution in 2015. Professional sports have been one field that black people have found opportunities in, and that precisely is why Trump is attacking black sports culture: because it is a community that loudly rejects his white supremacist values.
Trump has only condemned black athletes. Brady didn’t go to the White House. Pop and Kerr have been directly critical of him. Silence.— David Dennis Jr. (@DavidDTSS) September 23, 2017
Not a time to “stick to sports”
Ever since the olden days, “stick to sports” has been a common refrain thrown at athletes who have dared to share their political opinions to the public. But sports, like any forum, are inherently political: we listen to the national anthem before our games, our champions visit the president, we play for our country in international play. Imagine being told your views on anything not concerning your job are worthless!
Basketball is just a game, and the game itself is fun! But the reason we love sports is also because of the athletes, the media, and the fans that surround the way we watch them. This ecosystem is the target of the president in service of his white supremacist agenda, and it’s our job to take the right side.