Thursday 19 October 2017

'Invitation is withdrawn!' - Trump withdraws White House invitation to NBA champions

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally for Senator Luther Strange in Huntsville, Alabama, U.S. September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally for Senator Luther Strange in Huntsville, Alabama, U.S. September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
President Donald Trump smiles at the crowd as he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Liam Blackburn

US President Donald Trump has followed up his scathing comments about protesting NFL players by withdrawing an invitation to NBA champions the Golden State Warriors to attend the White House.

Mr Trump on Friday attacked the NFL players who protest during the US anthem, insisting their owners should "fire" them - a stance the league has now described as "divisive" and "unfortunate".

His comments at a rally in Alabama came on the same day Warriors point guard Steph Curry, a two-time most valuable player award winner and one of the most recognisable players in basketball, spoke about his dilemma over a possible Washington visit for his side.

It is commonplace in American sport for winners of competitions such as the NBA, MLB and NFL to be invited to meet the president at the White House.

Two years ago Mr Curry and his team-mates did so with Barack Obama, the former president whose final visitors were the Cleveland Cavaliers last November.

But even though it was reported no official invitation had been extended to the Warriors, Mr Curry made his position clear on Friday.

President Donald Trump smiles at the crowd as he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
President Donald Trump smiles at the crowd as he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Speaking at the Warriors' pre-season media day, he said: "I don't want to go.

"(It would show) that we don't stand for what our president has ... the things that he's said and the things that he hasn't said in 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 and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.

"It's not just the act of not going there. There are things you have to do on the back end to actually push that message into motion."

Mr Curry later told ESPN: "We have an opportunity to send a statement that hopefully encourages unity, encourages us to appreciate what it means to be American and stand for something, we want to take advantage of this opportunity (by not going)."

Mr Trump has now taken the decision out of Golden State's hands, tweeting: "Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!"

Earlier in the day, Mr Trump drew criticism for his comments about the anthem protests in the NFL.

Various players across the league have taken a stand by kneeling or raising their fist during The Star-Spangled Banner since the start of last season, including high-profile figures like Colin Kaepernick, Michael Bennett and Marshawn Lynch.

Mr Kaepernick, who remains unemployed despite leading a team to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season, was the first to protest over perceived racial injustice and police brutality.

Mr Bennett admitted the scenes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, about which Mr Trump said there was "blame on both sides", partially motivated his own decision.

Mr Trump said: "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'. Wouldn't you love it?"

A statement from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday said: "The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.

"Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."

Chris Long, one of the New England Patriots Super Bowl winners who did not attend a function at the White House earlier this year and who is now with the Philadelphia Eagles, tweeted along similar lines: "Player- Let's promote equality, help our communities. Mad Guy- All talk. Player- Actually I do/have done X. Mad Guy- U just want attention!"

Denver Broncos guard Max Garcia added: "Where was this passion in response to Charlottesville?"

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