He may not have been prepared for LeBron James’ response.
It’s not normal for the nation’s chief executive to spend his time going after America’s top athletes. But on Friday night and Saturday morning, President Donald Trump went out of his way to lambast players who have taken stands on social issues. First, during a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama, Trump insulted NFL players who have taken a knee during the national anthem to condemn police violence and took a veiled shot at former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!” Trump told the crowd at a rally meant to support Sen. Luther Strange, who is vying to keep Jeff Sessions’ open Senate seat.
Trump’s comments in Alabama tonight on the NFL’s rule changes and ongoing anthem protests.
Kaepernick has gone unsigned this season, raising concerns that he’s been blackballed by NFL owners for his decision to kneel during the national anthem. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell disputed the notion in August, saying that the NFL teams “make those decisions individually.” Over the past year, NFL players have raised fists and taken knees and spoken out about social issues, inspiring high school, college and even Pee-Wee athletes to do the same.Yahoo Sports reported that in August, four NFL players—Michael Bennett, Malcolm Jenkins, Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin—sent a 10-page memo to Goodell and executive vice president Troy Vincent calling for the NFL for the league’s support for a racial equality and criminal justice reform campaign. The commissioner has not commented on the memo nor have the players.
On Saturday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the president’s comments “demonstrate a lack of respect” for the NFL and its players.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, took a more defiant stance.
Trump didn’t stop at calling out players who have protested. He criticized the NFL’s concussion rules for “ruining the game,” even though the rules were made to protect players from the debilitating long-term effects of brain injuries. And on Saturday morning, Trump claimed to have withdrawn an invitation to Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry after Curry told reporters he did not want to go. Curry said:
“That we don’t stand for basically what our president has—the things that he’s said and the things that he hasn’t said at the right times—that we won’t stand for it. By acting, and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country, what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye toward. It’s not just the act of not going…That’s kind of where I stand on that. I don’t think us going to the White House will miraculously make everything better, but this is my opportunity to voice that.”
Stephen Curry pretty forceful on his thoughts about Trump and possible White House visit pic.twitter.com/Ubj6V91EsL
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) September 22, 2017
Of course, LeBron James had a hilarious clapback.
Update: Trump’s remarks sparked significant outcry from other NBA and NFL players as he continued to tweet on Saturday. Even Colin Kaepernick’s mom got in on the responses.
In a statement on Saturday, the Golden State Warriors accepted Trump’s withdrawal of an invitation to the White House. “We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them,” the team noted.