On Saturday, Donald Trump made it clear that he wasn’t backing down on the controversial and widely criticized comments he made about NFL and NBA players who express their unhappiness over the current political situation in America by refusing to stand during the national anthem.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect Our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted.
“If not, YOU’RE FIRED,” he continued. “Find something else to do!”
On Friday, at a rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange, the president said he thought NFL team owners should fire players who protest standing for the national anthem by taking a knee or sitting down.
“For a week, [that owner would] be the most popular person in this country. Because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage,” Trump said. “That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for.”
Hours later on Saturday morning, Trump tweeted that he would not invite the Golden State Warriors to visit the White House, shortly after Fox & Friends covered some comments Stephen Curry made on Friday about how he didn’t think his team should visit the White House to celebrate their championship win.
“You can talk about all the different personalities that have said things and done things — from [Colin] Kaepernick to what happened with Michael Bennett to all sorts of examples of what has gone on in our country that has led to change,” Curry told reporters.
“We’re all trying to do what we can using our platforms, using our opportunities to shed light on that. That’s kind of where I stand on that,” he continued. “I don’t think us going to the White House will miraculously make everything better, but this is my opportunity to voice that.”
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The president voiced his disapproval by tweeting, “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
In response to the president’s tweets, both the NFL and The Golden State Warriors have issued statements standing behind their players’ freedom of speech.
On Saturday morning, NFL commissioner Roger Goodman said, “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month.
“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” he added.
And on Saturday afternoon, the Warriors came out with their own statement.
“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 had made it clear that we are not invited,” The Warriors said.
“We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them,” the team continued. “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 as an organization,” they added.
Numerous celebrities — including Diddy — have also joined in standing behind the players, causing a resurgence of the #TakeAKnee hashtag on social media.
In August 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines for refusing to stand for the national anthem.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said at the time. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”