OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry went to bed Friday night thinking he and the rest of the Golden State Warriors would convene Saturday for their first day of practice to decide whether they would be making the NBA champions’ traditional White House visit when they travel to Washington in February.
He woke up to 20 text messages telling him that choice had been made for him, thanks to President Trump’s tweet that Curry’s White House invitation had been rescinded.
“It’s surreal, to be honest,” Curry said after that practice had concluded at the team’s facility in downtown Oakland. “I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals, rather than others.
“I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath a leader of a country to go that route. That’s not what leaders do.”
In between Curry’s meeting with the media Saturday afternoon and his impassioned defense of why he would be voting against a possible White House visit 24 hours earlier, plenty had happened. The combination of President Trump both attacking NFL players for failing to stand during the national anthem at a political rally in Alabama on Friday night and his tweets about Curry and those same NFL players Saturday morning had unleashed a torrent of responses condemning his actions from the sports world.
One of the first to speak up was LeBron James, who called Trump a “bum” in a tweet and later posted a video on “Uninterrupted” with his expanded thoughts on the matter.
“We all know how much sports brings us together,” James said. “For him to try to use this platform to divide us even more is not something I can stand for and not something I can be quiet about.”
James wasn’t alone. Chris Paul, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, sent a pair of tweets attacking Trump for his stance. Curry’s teammate, Draymond Green, asked in a tweet of his own, “Still wondering how this guy is running our country …” while Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett fired off a series of tweets on the matter. Among them: “The idea of @realDonaldTrump thinking that suggesting firing me from football, [sic] confirms that he thinks that it’s all I can do as a Black man.”
Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, meanwhile, called Trump “a a–hole.”
Later Saturday, North Carolina announced its men’s basketball team, which won its latest NCAA championship this past spring, won’t be visiting the White House, either, though school spokesman Steve Kirschner told the Raleigh News & Observer it was a scheduling issue.
“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” Kirschner said. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between, they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so — we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”
He also added that the White House had officially extended an invitation, and that the players on the team were “fine with going.”
That wasn’t the case with the Warriors. While General Manager Bob Myers said that he’d had extensive conversations with at least one White House representative about a possible visit and had planned to circle back and discuss the matter further after the planned meeting Saturday morning, there was no longer a need to after Trump’s tweet.
Before the team finished practice Saturday, it released a statement saying it was disappointed it hadn’t been given the chance to discuss its decision before Trump made it for them, but that when they come to Washington to play the Wizards on Feb. 28, “In lieu of a visit to the White House, we have decided that we’ll constructively use our trip to the nation’s capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.”
Washington Mayor Muriel E. Bowser later welcomed that idea in a statement, which finished with, “And if anyone ever tells you that you cannot come to D.C., tell them Mayor Bowser invited you.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver later put out a statement of his own, saying that he had been in favor of the players making the White House visit to speak their minds directly with the president and was disappointed that wouldn’t be happening, but that “more importantly, I am proud of our players for taking an active role in their communities and continuing to speak out on critically important issues.”
The league’s players association responded in kind.
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, meanwhile, said he learned about what happened much like Curry — when his wife tapped him on the shoulder in the morning.
“I was half-asleep, and she said, ‘There it is,’ ” he said with a smile.
But Kerr, who has never been shy about his own political beliefs, couldn’t help getting in a few subtle jabs during his media availability.
“I was not surprised,” Kerr said of Trump’s tweet. “He was going to break up with us before we could break up with him. That’s the way it goes.”
Then, when he was asked if recent events in Charlottesville — along with Trump’s reaction — played any part in how he or his players felt about the matter, Kerr said, “Nah, because there were very fine people on both sides.”
He then smiled. “I’m sorry. That was a low blow. Low blow.”
On a more serious note, Kerr — who has been to the White House seven times — said he had always appreciated the experience and was saddened that the current political climate had led to this situation happening.
“In general, the idea of going to the White House as part of a championship team is awesome, an incredible honor,” he said. “You honor the office, the institution. I can speak from personal experience. It doesn’t matter, you set aside personal differences. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with [Ronald] Reagan, George Bush, [Bill] Clinton, George W. Bush, [Barack] Obama.
“I didn’t necessarily agree with all of them, but it was an incredible honor to be in their presence. There was a respect for the office and also a respect from not only us, but from the president himself. I think we would, in normal times, very easily be able to set aside political differences, go visit and have a good time. But these are not ordinary times.”
David West, one of the oldest and most respected players in the league, who had finally won his first championship this past June with the Warriors, expressed a similar sentiment.
“It’s sad,” West said. “There’s got to be some maturity across the board. We talk about that as a group, being the more mature individuals in a situation, take the mature approach. Obviously there’s great division in this nation right now. It’s always existed.
“I think Trump has become the greatest mirror for America. My cousin, we had a conversation — she brought that to me — because I think there are a lot of things that have been in the dark, hidden, and he’s just bold enough to put it out on front street. But I don’t think the nation as a whole, individuals are willing to accept him pulling us backwards, him pulling us to a time where everyone didn’t have a shot.”
At the center of it all, though, is Curry, a man who has almost always gone out of his way to avoid exactly this kind of political controversy — at least until now.
If nothing else, it’s clear his relationship with this president won’t quite be the same as his was with Trump’s predecessor.
“I’ve played golf with President Obama,” Curry said. “I’m pretty sure I won’t get a tee time invite during this regime.”