President Donald Trump is sticking to sports. Friday night, he called NFL players who protest racial inequality “sons of bitches,” urged owners to cut them, and said the league is taking too many steps to protect players from degenerative brain disease. Saturday morning, he disinvited Stephen Curry from the traditional White House visit for NBA champions.
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the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
Perhaps something got lost in translation for the president. Curry wasn’t exactly “hesitating” on this issue: He stated pretty firmly that he felt the Warriors shouldn’t visit the White House, a decision he hoped would “inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country.” What an awesome show of the power of the presidency: disinviting a person who had already declined. (Trump tends to tweet that an entity is bad after they’ve turned him down, and that he was never interested in being involved with them anyway.)
LeBron James, for one, noticed how Trump played this:
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
It’s not new for athletes to decide they’d rather not visit the White House—Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, and others have skipped in past. During the Obama administration, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said he was avoiding the White House because of his political views. However, it is new for the president to respond to a single athlete’s decision, asserting that anyone who won’t meet with him is unworthy of his presence.
It’s unclear whether the rest of the Golden State Warriors will be invited to the White House, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Kevin Durant said in August that he wouldn’t attend because he doesn’t “respect who’s in office right now,” and while Steve Kerr said a White House visit could be a positive in June, the Warriors head coach previously said Trump is a “blowhard” who is “ill-suited to be president.” And the team’s opinions will probably shift even further away from a potential visit after Trump publicly called out Curry. I would assume that the Warriors will not be going to the White House, although I still think the strongest message would be to accept a teamwide invitation and then send only Zaza Pachulia.
Until recently, Curry has offered only bland, apolitical stances. Now Trump is insulting him on Twitter. I think we’ll see this trend continue: If the president of the United States continues to publicly bash athletes who disagree with him, more athletes will feel compelled to speak publicly about politics and skip White House visits. But that might work out just fine for a president who seems to have realized that publicly criticizing famous athletes is a strategy that sells.
Update: The Warriors have responded to Trump’s statement saying “there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them.”