Donald Trump became the talk of the sports world over the weekend by taking aim at the NFL and NBA. Not only did he “withdraw” the Golden State Warriors’ invitation to the White House after Stephen Curry made it clear he didn’t want to attend, Trump criticised NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. He called anyone who does a “son of a bitch” and followed it up with a tweet saying players should be fired or suspended if they choose not to stand.
Many important figures in sports have since responded to Trump through various platforms, and many more will likely follow suit in the coming days. Here are some of the responses so far that have stood out.
Colin Kaepernick’s mom is proud
Colin Kaepernick was the first NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem last season, saying he was not going to “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He chose to end his protest before becoming a free agent this offseason because he believed his actions had sparked a national discussion about social inequality, which, of course, is still going on today.
Although Trump didn’t single Kaepernick out during his speech in Alabama on Friday, he has been critical of the quarterback in the past, even taking credit for NFL owners not wanting to sign him out of fear of a “nasty tweet.” It could be why Kaepernick’s mother, Teresa Kaepernick, had this response to his “son of a bitch” comment:
Guess that makes me a proud bitch!
— Teresa Kaepernick (@B4IleaveU) September 23, 2017
Kaepernick remains a free agent, many believing he has been blackballed from the NFL for his protests from last season. In a series of tweets on Sunday, rapper J. Cole thanked Kaepernick for his “sacrifice.”
Michael Jordan called on Trump to unite, not divide
Michael Jordan, who is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all-time, released a statement through The Charlotte Observer on Sunday in response to Trump’s tweet about the Warriors. He’s largely shied away from addressing social issues, but he came out last year to express his anger about “divisive rhetoric and racial tensions” in the country, and he’s continuing to speak out. Jordan said “we should be looking for ways to work together and support each other” at a time of “increasing divisiveness and hate in this country.”
“One of the fundamental rights this country is founded on was freedom of speech, and we have a long tradition of nonviolent, peaceful protest,” Jordan said. “Those who exercise the right to peacefully express themselves should not be demonized or ostracized.”
Jordan also said he supports everyone in the NBA who decides to exercise their right to free speech, be it NBA commissioner Adam Silver or any of the league’s players. The NBA actually has a rule prohibiting players from kneeling during the national anthem, but the likes of LeBron James and Chris Paul used social media over the weekend to respond to Trump.
Steve Kerr admitted the Warriors probably wouldn’t have gone to the White House
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr shared his message through Sports Illustrated. Kerr said it was “a shame” the Warriors couldn’t work something out, but he noted that Trump has made it difficult for them to enter the White House because “what’s going on is not normal.” Like his former teammate Michael Jordan, Kerr then called on Trump to represent everyone and bring people together rather than dividing them.
“Would we have gone? Probably not,” Kerr wrote. “The truth is we all struggled with the idea of spending time with a man who has offended us with his words and actions time and again. But I can tell you one thing: it wouldn’t have been for the traditional ceremony, to shake hands and smile for cameras. Internally, we’d discussed whether it’d be possible to just go and meet as private citizens and have a serious, poignant discussion about some of the issues we’re concerned about.”
A lot was made of the Warriors’ potential visit to the White House. Kevin Durant made it clear he would not visit the White House if they were invited and many of his teammates felt the same way. It was Curry, however, who got the attention of Trump by saying he didn’t want to go when he was asked about it during Media Day.
“I don’t want to go,” Curry said. “That’s kind of the nucleus of my belief… (But) it’s not just me going to the White House. If it was, this would be a pretty short conversation.”
Warriors owner Joe Lacob said he was preparing for a team meeting to discuss their visit to the White House when he saw Trump’s tweet. While they will no longer visit the White House, they announced they will use their trip to the nation’s capital this season “constructively” to “celebrate equality, diversity, and inclusion – the values that we embrace as an organisation.”
Even Tom Brady called Trump’s comments “divisive”
During an interview with WEEI’s “Kirk and Callahan” on Monday, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – who is friends with Trump – said he doesn’t agree with what the President said, and that his words were “divisive.” This comes a week after Brady said he’d like to see Kaepernick get another shot in the NFL because he “accomplished a lot in the pros, as a player, and he’s certainly qualified.”
“I just want to support my teammates,” Brady said on Monday. “I’m never one that says, ‘Oh, that’s wrong or that’s right.’ But I do believe in what I believe in, and I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust. Those are the values that my parents instilled in me and that’s how I try to live every day.”
Brady was spotted with a Make America Great Again hat last year and has complimented him on a number of occasions publicly, but he has largely avoid questions about Trump since he became President and even skipped the Patriots’ visit to the White House — although Brady cited family matters as the reason.
While Trump hasn’t responded to Brady in any form, the President said he was “OK” being criticized by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a good friend of Trump’s who said he was “deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a message for Trump and NASCAR owners
Whereas the NFL and NBA encouraged its players to exercise their right to free speech, NASCAR team owners did not want to see any protests during the national anthem over the weekend. Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty, for example, said “anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country.” He also said any protesters at Richard Petty Motorsports would be fired.
Trump praised those NASCAR team owners in a tweet on Monday, saying he was “so proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans” for not “disrespecting our Country or our Flag.” Shortly thereafter, Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted a quote from John F. Kennedy in which he said “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable-JFK
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) September 25, 2017
As Tadd Haislop of Sporting News noted, it’s a big deal considering Earnhardt Jr. has been named NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver every year since 2003. It’s similar to LeBron James using his platform to call Trump a “bum” in a tweet that has over 650,000 retweets and 1.4 million favorites.