After President Trump’s criticism of NFL players over the weekend and his decision to rescind a customary White House invitation to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Wizards stars John Wall and Bradley Beal had plenty to say.
For Beal, Monday’s media day was an opportunity to elaborate on tweets he had sent over the weekend about Trump. The usually easygoing 24-year-old spoke passionately as he called Trump a “clown.”
“Well, I feel like honestly, that’s not a leader,” Beal said, as he sat beside Wall on a podium. “For you to come out and disrespect a whole sport that the whole world, basically, loves, call people names, S.O.B.’s, that’s not a popular leader. We have guys who won a championship, and they have the freedom of deciding whether or not they want to go. When one man decides not to go, how, for real, can you just take it … that’s not consistent. To me, you’re a clown. To do something like this, that’s unacceptable. That’s not what a leader does, your job is supposed to bring everybody together. And everybody in the world feels that since you got in office that hasn’t been the case. There’s a lot of issues going on in the world, like Puerto Rico doesn’t have water and power and they’re still part of the U.S., but you’re worried about guys kneeling during the national anthem.”
Wall echoed Beal when asked about his thoughts on Trump.
“I don’t like anything he’s been saying,” Wall said. “I don’t respect him, I feel like you can’t control what people want to do, and we have bigger issues in this world that you need to be focusing on instead of focusing on all these people taking a knee. It means something more important, they’re doing it for a reason, and you can’t do nothing but respect their decision. But you’re coming out and saying what people are and what they do, you’re not being respectful, you’re not being mindful … I don’t respect him.”
Wall and Beal arrived together at the podium to address the media, and the first three questions — all strictly basketball related — were directed at Wall. The Wizards’ franchise player made a comment that his co-star had things to say, leading to a question about Beal’s tweets about Trump.
Later, Beal was asked if he is ever hesitant to speak out on social or political subjects.
“I think everything through before I say it, and I’ll always stand on what I say,” Beal said. “I’ll never go back and try to apologize for what I said, because I said it, at the end of the day. It’s something I firmly believe in, and I’ve always felt like I had a voice. Sometimes whether athletes realize it or not, we’re role models. People view our voices as having more power and say-so than probably the rest of the world, because people look up to us as athletes and they see us on TV every day … We feel like we have a powerful voice in one way or another. So if I can reach one person, that’s everything … For me, it’s kind of a no-brainer to be able to speak out on something that I believe in and something that I feel like is not right.”
Wall and Beal weren’t the only Wizards players asked about Trump’s criticism. Center Ian Mahinmi, who is French, said raising two young daughters in the U.S. current political climate is leading to a lot more dinner-table conversations about social issues in his household. Jason Smith, who is the NBPA player representative for the Wizards, demurred when asked if he ever considers speaking out on social issues.
“I just and try and focus on things I can control,” Smith said. “If you bog yourself down with everything that’s going on in the world — we live in a crazy world. That’s the gist of it. For me, I don’t really worry about that stuff.”
Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said he hasn’t yet held any discussions with the team about a possible response to the NFL protests, but promised there would be dialogue about it. He stressed that anything the team might do would be a collective action.
“It’s a hot topic right now, rightfully so,” Brooks said. “The thing that I love about our group, [I’ve] only been with the group for a year and hopefully it doesn’t change but we’ve always done things together. I think it’s stronger when you do it in a group, in a group setting. Whatever we decide on, we’ll do it together. But also, to me it’s how you conduct yourself and carry yourself throughout the day. Not just a short segment of the day…
“This group and this organization do an incredible job at getting involved in the community. Not only players give back money, they give back their time and constantly, we’re always going places, whether it’s the Special Olympics or Make-A-Wish or Wounded Warriors groups coming here. We’re always giving back. … I think growing up here and being an American citizen is a great honor and it’s a privilege to be in the NBA and I think we all have this opportunity to give back and make a difference. Like I said, our group has done a tremendous job. I’m proud to be part of an organization that continues to give back.”
Wall later discussed the NFL in greater detail, adding that white stars, such as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, need to join the movement happening in their league. While expressing respect for their skills, Wall said, “until those guys come out and speak I don’t think the NFL is going to make no adjustments.”