Throw the flag. Donald Trump’s slaps at NFL players who do not stand for the national anthem — read Colin Kaepernick — and NBA champions who don’t quickly accept invitations to the White House — think Steph Curry — was a personal foul: unnecessary nastiness. And it was and is deserving of all the booing that it is receiving.
For those who missed what happened, the president joined the fray over Kaepernick in usual Trump fashion — by throwing gasoline on the fire. During a speech to a crowd in Huntsville, Alabama Friday, Trump said he hoped NFL players who knelt during the national anthem would be canned. Said he: “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!’ ”
As we’ve said before, reasonable people can disagree about Kaepernick’s kneeling, an act he said was in protest over the unjustified killings of black men by law enforcement. But there’s nothing reasonable to be found in Trump calling a black NFL quarterback an SOB for taking a position against racial injustice — and starting something that, with Trump’s help, has now spread like, well, like a gasoline fire.
On Sunday, entire teams took a knee and/or locked arms in solidarity with Kaepernick and in defiance of Trump. Teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks chose to remain in the locker room until after the national anthem. Twenty-seven of the league’s 32 team owners issued statements in response to the president.
Meanwhile, as if taking on the NFL wasn’t enough, Trump enraged many in the NBA as well with a tweet uninviting the Golden State Warriors to the White House. After Curry told the media on Friday that he did not want to make the trip, the president decided to annul the invitation. “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team,” he tweeted the following morning. “Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
Of course, given what Curry and his teammates had already said, maybe it wasn’t such an honor. In fact, it was unlikely that the Warriors were going to make the Trump trip anyhow. But this would have been nothing new. Professional athletes have turned down White House visits before. Tom Brady, a Trump supporter, skipped a visit with Barack Obama claiming he had a scheduling conflict. Matt Birk of the Baltimore Ravens passed on a visit in 2013 because of Obama’s position on abortion. And it’s no secret that a number of New England Patriots were missing from the team photo with Trump earlier this year.
But this may be a first — a president turning down an entire team before the members had even decided whether to come.
Coach Steve Kerr said it best when he explained in an interview that the Warriors had discussed whether to use the visit to have “a serious, poignant discussion” with Trump. “But he’s made it hard for any of us to actually enter the White House, because what’s going on is not normal,” he said. “It’s childish stuff: belittling people and calling them names. So to expect to go in and have a civil, serious discourse? Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen.”
Not, not likely. Just call it unstatesmanlike conduct.