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Athletes Clash With Trump Over His Incendiary Remarks

Colin Kaepernick with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 and Stephen Curry playing for the Golden State Warriors in 2016. (Mike Morbeck / Wikimedia Commons & Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons)

President Trump has taken on a pair of unlikely targets in the past 24 hours: professional basketball player Stephen Curry and professional football player Colin Kaepernick.

Trump first stirred up the sports community—and countless other Americans—during a speech Friday night in Alabama in which he ranted about Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has made waves for his political activism, highlighted by his refusal to stand during the national anthem.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!’ ” Trump told the cheering crowd. He went on to urge fans to “leave the stadium” if they see a player kneel during the national anthem.

Trump’s inflammatory remark sparked almost immediate rebukes from well-known sports figures, with numerous NFL players chiming in on Twitter. In addition, Kaepernick’s mother, Teresa Kaepernick, responded to the president’s comments: “Guess that makes me a proud bitch!” she tweeted Friday night.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke up Saturday about Trump’s “divisive comments,” stating the president showed “an unfortunate lack of respect” for football, the NFL and its players.

“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture,” he said. “There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month.”

But Trump wasn’t finished criticizing professional athletes. On Saturday morning, he turned his attention to basketball, tweeting about the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and an invitation to the White House.

“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team,” he wrote. “Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”

The Washington Post wrote Saturday: “It never was truly clear whether Trump had formally invited the Warriors to the White House (Shelburne [Ramona Shelburne of ESPN] reported Thursday and repeated Saturday that the team had not received an invitation), but Saturday morning, the president said the team—or at least Curry—is not welcome because of the comments Friday.”

Once again, the response to Trump came quickly. Numerous sports fans pointed out that Curry has stated he has no interest in visiting the White House. The most prominent reaction came from fellow NBA player LeBron James, who called Trump a “bum”:

The Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green and the Houston Rockets’ Chris Paul, as well as retired basketball star Kobe Bryant, also chimed in on Twitter:

In the wake of Trump’s surprising expression of ire toward Kaepernick and Curry, activists and many sports fans are encouraging players to show solidarity and kneel during Sunday’s football games. Activist Shaun King, who has spearheaded the effort, tweeted Saturday morning that already 35 NFL players are saying they will kneel. The hashtag #TakeAKnee began trending on Twitter as activist organizations and others encouraged players to take part in Kaepernick’s form of demonstration.

The players have the full support of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). “We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports,” NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith tweeted. “This union … will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks.”

In the eyes of many Americans, Trump’s targeted attacks go beyond the world of sports. Considering that the Trump administration recently went after Jemele Hill of the sports channel ESPN for a negative tweet about the president, many see Trump’s latest remarks as a continuation of inherent racism. Hill, Curry and Kaepernick are of African-American descent.

“At the root of Trump’s hatred for Obama is the same thing as his hatred for Kaepernick,” Shaun King said on Twitter. “He despises Black men w/ power he doesn’t give them.”

The issue of Trump’s outbursts won’t be going away anytime soon: Numerous NFL teams have games Sunday, and the Golden State Warriors team is “expected to comment further” after a preseason game Saturday.

Emma Niles
Assistant Editor
Emma Niles, an assistant editor at Truthdig, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree in political science. She has worked for the National Women’s Law Center and Ms. Magazine.…
Emma Niles

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