OAKLAND, Calif. — Sports Illustrated has taken heat for its latest cover, which features a series of sports figures linking arms — including a front row depicting Stephen Curry positioned between LeBron James and Roger Goodell.
Count Curry among those unhappy with the way he was depicted and the decision to leave Colin Kaepernick off it altogether.
“That was terrible,” Curry said after his Golden State Warriors completed its practice Wednesday. “It’s just kind of capitalizing on the hoopla in the media and all of that nonsense. The real people that understand exactly what has been going on and who has really been active and vocal and truly making a difference.
“If you don’t have Kaepernick front and center on that, something is wrong. It’s kind of hard to see how certain narratives take place, being prisoners of the moment.
“But at the end of the day, that stuff really doesn’t matter. It’s about the true message really highlighting the people that are doing the right things.”
The cover, in the eyes of many, had several issues. The first was that Kaepernick, who started the movement more than a year ago when he refused to stand during the national anthem and for which he is widely believed to be being held out of the NFL now because of it, wasn’t anywhere to be found.
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr — who, like his star point guard, was featured on the cover — was equally incredulous about the decision regarding Kaepernick, as he told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami in a series of tweets.
In a video posted on Sports Illustrated’s website, executive editor Stephen Cannella, who said the message the cover was trying to get across was that the enduring symbol of the weekend was unity among athletes of all sports, tried to defend the publication’s decision to leave Kaepernick off the cover by essentially saying everyone knew he was there — at least in spirit.
“Well in some ways, even though his picture is not there, Colin Kaepernick is there,” Cannella said. “I think we all know that. Colin Kaepernick was for the lack of a better word, was looming over what happened this weekend, and looms over many issues in society right now. I thought what we were trying to capture with this cover was the way new voices emerged this weekend.
“This debate, this issue, this protest movement has sort of evolved even beyond Colin Kaepernick, and I think we saw a lot of people join the movement, for lack of a better term, this weekend. That’s what we were trying to capture with this cover.
“Colin Kaepernick is on that cover. Even if his face and his name aren’t there, we all know who stands behind this movement. We all know who got it started. Colin Kaepernick has many more brothers than he did a week ago.”
The magazine seems to be in the minority on that opinion.
In addition to arguments about why only one woman — Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker — was on the cover, the other issue was with Goodell being put in such a prominent place after many felt his initial statement about President Trump saying that NFL owners should, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,” referring to anyone kneeling during the national anthem, during a rally for since-defeated Senate candidate Luther Strange wasn’t strong enough.
Cannella also attempted to defend that decision.
“I think it’s pretty clear what side of the issue Roger Goodell stood on Friday and over the weekend in response to President Trump’s critics,” Cannella said. “Whether you think he came out strongly enough or not, I think it’s pretty clear where he and most of the league stands and that’s why he’s there representing not just him but all of ownership.”
If the reaction online is any indication, though, the magazine is going to have to do a lot of work convincing many people it did the right thing in either case.