On Wednesday, US basketball superstars LeBron James and Stephen Curry slammed President Donald Trump ahead of the NBA Championship finals, and said that no matter which of their teams prevailed, no one wanted to be invited to the White House.
James and Curry, arguably the greatest basketball players of this generation, weighed in after Trump rescinded his White House invitation to the Superbowl Champions Philadelphia Eagles after being informed that most of the team planned to skip the event.
This is just the latest development in the seemingly endless war between Trump, a white billionaire (by his own accounting) — who ascended to the presidency by playing to the hard-right and who has been accused and sued for racially discriminating against African-Americans — and prominent US athletes, many of whom happen to be persons of colour.
The Take a Knee movement kicked off in August 2016, when Trump was still a presidential hopeful. It was 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who, wanting to draw attention to a litany of American problems, along with teammate Eric Reid, dropped to one knee even as The Star-Spangled Banner was sung and an American flag was unfurled ahead of a football game. Kaepernick, who cited numerous reasons for his actions, ranging from racial injustice and minority oppression to police brutality and the treatment of military veterans, was both celebrated and censured.
According to a report in Time, in March 2017, Trump, now president, took credit for Kaepernick not being signed by any team after he opted out of his contract with the 49ers . Trump, addressing a crowd in Louisville, Kentucky, said, "There was an article today…that NFL owners don't want to pick him up because they don't want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump," the president told the crowd. "You believe that? I just saw that. I said, 'If I remember that one, I’m gonna report it to the people of Kentucky because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag.'"
In September, Trump took aim at the NFL directly (with whom he had a reportedly unrequited and one-sided romance) after Reid continued to take a knee. Trump chastised the NFL's billionaire owners (most of whom are also white men) and encouraged spectators to walk out of games (there were few takers, if any). "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired," Trump said to loud applause, according to a report in the LA Times. September remained a busy month for Trump. After Stephen Curry and his team the Golden State Warriors said they had no interest in visiting the White House, Trump tweeted:
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
James, long considered the true heir to Michael Jordan by basketball insiders, proved his court game was as strong as ever by dunking on the president on Twitter:
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
Richard Sherman, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks, also took to social media to condemn the president's behaviour:
The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!! — Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) September 23, 2017
Trump then threw oil on that open flame, going on to tweet:
If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect.... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
...our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
The protests then exploded within the NFL: The Tennessee Titans joined the Seattle Seahawks in deciding not to come out for the national anthem in September, NBC news reported. The Pittsburgh Steelers also threw in with their colleagues, deciding to remain in the locker room for the national anthem before their game against the Chicago Bears, coach Mike Tomlin told CBS, according to the report.
According to a report in SB Nation, the entire Raiders' offensive line and several teammates —incidentally, the only line up comprising African-Americans in the league — protested during the national anthem. More than 200 NFL players participated in some form of protest that weekend.
With inputs from AP
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Updated Date: Jun 06, 2018 21:39:18 IST