Instead of visiting the White House, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the rest of the Golden State Warriors — the reigning NBA champions — will spend Tuesday in Washington with local youth on a private tour.
The Warriors are doing Donald Trump a favor. Or, is it the other way around?
While Trump gets another chance to impress his tiny yet significant base by claiming he wants no part of a team that he portrays as led by an ungrateful white coach and a bunch of mouthy African-Americans, the Warriors get to show they are more compassionate than the leader of the free world.
Whatever the case, no professional or amateur sports team should accept a trip to the White House if its key people have huge issues with the person who works in the West Wing. Better yet, most sports leagues should suspend this practice, made popular by Ronald Reagan during the 1980s, until a new administration comes along.
There’s just too much drama surrounding the 45th president — especially when it comes to sports. Except for maybe NASCAR, whose significant tracks are smack in the middle of Trump country, he’s a polarizing figure to the athletic community.
In January, I was at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the college football championship game when a mixture of cheers and boos suddenly dominated the place. The response was to Trump, waving while walking in nearly slow motion from the tunnel to the field for the national anthem. For whatever reason, there were mostly boos during his exit.
Elsewhere, in the NFL, Trump is friendly with the hierarchy of the New England Patriots (owner Bob Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady), but he isn’t the people’s choice throughout a chunk of the NFL. Many players were angered when he blasted primarily African-Americans for kneeling in protest during the “National Anthem” last year.
In the NBA, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rips Trump often, and the same goes for Cleveland Cavaliers icon LeBron James. So, if either the Spurs or the Cavaliers snatch the championship of their league this year, we’ll see this two-part scenario again: The winners saying they’d rather count the number of dimples on a basketball than shake hands with Trump, and Trump saying it doesn’t matter, because he already told members of the Secret Service to lock the White House gates if they see either of those teams coming.
As for the Warriors, Trump tweeted in September that he rescinded his “great honor for a championship team” to visit the executive mansion, adding in the same tweet that he did so because Curry “is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
Yeah, well, Mr. President, most of the Warriors cringed when they first were asked by the media if they would accept a trip the White House. Let’s just say not many of Trump’s 62,984,825 votes in November 2016 came from guys around the San Francisco Bay Area with two NBA title rings in the past three years. From head coach Steve Kerr to perennial all-stars Curry and Durant, those in the Warriors have spent the past year wishing to slam-dunk this presidency sooner rather than later.
Trump has not been amused. Not that the Warriors care.
“It’s their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it’s up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans,” Kerr told ESPN regarding Tuesday’s event, which will feature the Warriors’ coaching staff joining the players and those young people on a tour of a place that hasn’t been disclosed. “I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they’re doing.”
Just like that, everybody wins. The kids triumph because they’ll have their superheroes up close and personal. The Warriors don’t have to see their version of the bogeyman in the White House. And Trump keeps his base happy with another one of his highly charged moments, where he divides — rather than unifies — the nation.
Not coincidentally, the Warriors dribble in a league that is 75% African-American, and even though Kerr is white, Curry, Durant and the other significant Golden State players aren’t. Which adds more credence to those who believe the President won’t be singing old black spirituals anytime soon.
To the chagrin of Trump, the Warriors also are outspoken on social issues, which is the antithesis of the Chicago Cubs, whose co-owner is Todd Ricketts, the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. His Major League Baseball team visited the White House in January 2017 during the Obama administration to celebrate winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years, but courtesy of Ricketts, it accepted Trump’s invitation to return for an Oval Office visit six months later.
Trump also hosted the Clemson Tigers last year in honor of their college football national title. In November, he spent time at the White House with the West Virginia rifle team, the Ohio State men’s volleyball team, the Maryland lacrosse team (both men and women) and 14 other NCAA championship teams.
Players, coaches and administrators from the Cubs and those college teams smiled and joked with Trump during their White House trips.
They wanted to be there.
The Warriors don’t, and that’s even better.