NBA superstar LeBron James posted a video to social media on Saturday calling for national unity while explaining that he called President Donald Trump a ‘bum’ earlier in the day because he was ‘using sports as a platform to divide us.’
‘I think it’s basically at a point where I’m a little frustrated because this guy that we’ve put in charge has tried to divide us once again,’ the Cavaliers star said.
‘Obviously we all know what happened with Charlottesville and the divide that caused.
‘It has even hit more home for me now because he is now using sports as the platform to try to divide us.
‘We all know how much sports brings us together, how much passion it has, how much we love and care, the friendships and everything it creates.
‘For him to try and use this platform to divide us even more is not something I can stand for and it’s not something I can be quiet about.’
James then took issue with Trump’s comments on Friday in Alabama where he called on NFL owners to fire players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.
‘You look at him asking the NFL owners to get rid of players off the field because they’re exercising their rights – and that’s not right,’ James said.
‘And then when I wake up I see that a colleague of mine (Stephen Curry) has been uninvited to something that he said he didn’t want to go in the first place [at] the White House – that’s something I can’t stand for,’ he said.
James mentioned ESPN broadcaster Jamele Hill and former San Francisco 49ers star Colin Kaepernick, who have come under fire for ‘speaking up.’
‘It’s for the greater cause,’ James said of Hill and Kaepernick. ‘It’s for us all to come together. It’s not about division.’
Hill generated controversy last week when she tweeted that Trump was a white supremacist.
That earned her a rebuke from her bosses at ESPN, who stressed that on-air talent are contractually obligated to avoid comments on social media that could be interpreted as incendiary.
The White House added fuel to the fire when Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that Hill’s remarks were a ‘fireable offense.’
Hill eventually apologized to ESPN for putting the company in an awkward position.
Earlier on Saturday, Trump tweeted criticism of Curry for saying that he would not visit the White House as is custom for championship teams.
That prompted an angry response from Curry’s fellow superstar, James, who called Trump a ‘bum’ on his Twitter feed.
James defended his arch rival Curry after Trump withdrew an invitation to NBA champions Golden State Warriors to visit the White House.
After Curry declared, ‘I don’t want to go’, President Trump tweeted Saturday morning: ’Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!’
And in response, LeBron, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, unexpectedly stood up for Curry.
He tweeted on Saturday: ‘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!’
The Golden State Warriors players and coaches were set to make a joint decision as to whether or not they’d visit Trump to celebrate their 2016-17 NBA Championship at this season.
‘I don’t want to go,’ Warriors All-Star and former NBA MVP Curry said at Friday’s media day. ‘That’s kind of the nucleus of my belief.’
‘It’s not just me going to the White House,’ he continued. ‘If it was, this would be a pretty short conversation. Like I said, it’s the organization, it’s the team. It’s hard to say because I don’t know exactly what we’re going to do. If we do go, don’t go or whatever, my beliefs stay the same.’
On Saturday afternoon, the Golden State Warriors said they will visit the capital anyway, despite being uninvited to the White House.
‘While we intended to meet as a team at the first opportunity we had this morning to collaboratively discuss a potential visit to the White House, we accept that President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited,’ the statement reads.
‘We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them. We’re disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have open dialogue on issues impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise.
‘In lieu of a visit to the White House, we have decided that we’ll constructively use our trip to the nation’s capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion – the values that we embrace a an organization.’
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement saying that he hoped the Warriors would pay a visit to the White House so that they can have an exchange of views with Trump.
‘I was in favor of the team visiting the White House and thought it was a rare opportunity for these players to share their views directly with the President,’ the commissioner said.
‘I am disappointed that that will not happen. More importantly, I am proud of our players for taking an active role in their communities and continuing to speak out on critically important issues.’
Coach Steve Kerr told ESPN before Trump’s tweet that the Warriors would meet as a team to discuss it and make a decision. He added that the White House has yet to extend a White House invitation, which customarily is made during a congratulatory call after a team has won a title.
Traditionally, the reigning champions in major American team sports visit the White House when they’re in Washington. The Warriors did meet with then-President Barack Obama after winning the 2014-15 NBA title, but the team was not openly critical of Obama as it has been of Trump.
Curry is an outspoken supporter of Obama and they are said to be friends.
Finals MVP Kevin Durant previously told ESPN that he ‘doesn’t respect’ the President and would refuse to go the White House.
‘I don’t agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,’ said Durant. ‘That’s just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they’ll all agree with me.’
Kerr has been publicly critical of Trump as well.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard, the five-time champion NBA player and two-time champion NBA coach questioned if ‘anyone ever thought that Donald Trump was a great leader?’
In a transcript that didn’t make Ballard’s article, he asked Kerr if Trump’s personality could work as an NBA coach.
‘I think it probably could have worked twenty or thirty years ago,’ said Kerr. ‘Think about [fiery former Indiana coach] Bobby Knight. My personal opinion is Bobby Knight’s way smarter than Donald Trump. Bobby Knight was brilliant in a lot of ways. So there was some real foundation in terms of knowing and coaching the game. But he was a bully, so…’
‘I think being a bully doesn’t work today, or at least it doesn’t work in coaching,’ Kerr continued. ‘The modern coach has to be much more communicative, flexible, aware, conscientious, all those things.’
‘Frankly,’ said Kerr, ‘I think it’s why Trump couldn’t be more ill-suited to be a President, because he’s a blowhard. You don’t see some of the qualities you talk about, the resilience, the ability to communicate, the compassion. None of that. But in the old days, a lot of great coaches who maybe didn’t have those, there was still a fiber there, whatever it was. To be a great leader, there have to be some qualities in there.’
And also on Saturday, North Carolina’s 2017 national championship men’s basketball team, the Tar Heels, said they would not go to The White House, despite being invited, according to The News & Observer.
This is because a date could not be agreed on.
Trump’s withdrawal of the invitation comes after her called on NFL owners to fire players who take a knee during the national anthem.
‘Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners… when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a b***h off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”‘ Trump said during a political rally in Alabama on Friday.
Trump said that any NFL owner who removed a protesting player from his team ‘be the most popular person in this country. Because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for.’
The president said that if fans would ‘leave the stadium’ in response to the protests, the players would stop.
‘The only thing you could do better,’ Trump said, ‘is if you see it, even if it’s just one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.’
Though the president never mentioned any players by name, he was most likely referring to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick was the first prominent NFL star to draw attention for refusing to stand during the national anthem as an act of protest against police shootings of African-Americans.
The reigning Major League Baseball champion Chicago Cubs did visit Trump in June even after previously visiting Obama, the native Chicagoan, before he left office.
Oddly enough, Dan Gilbert, owner of the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, visited the White House with the Cubs in June.
According to ESPN, Gilbert was only there that day in his role as CEO of Quicken Loans to discuss business with Trump.
Gilbert’s Cavaliers are 1-2 against the Warriors in the Finals over the last three seasons.
Previous presidents have had similar situations. After winning a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011, goaltender Tim Thomas declined to meet with Obama, citing his objections to both political parties.
And after the Detroit Pistons won the NBA title in 2004, power forward Rasheed Wallace publicly questioned whether he would meet with then-President George W. Bush.
Wallace ultimately did go to the White House and even shared a touching moment with Bush when the President picked up Wallace’s crying infant daughter and handed him to her father.