LOS ANGELES - President Donald Trump has triggered a backlash from the US professional sports world after withdrawing a White House invitation to the NBA champions Golden State Warriors and condemning NFL players who protested during the national anthem.
The president said on Saturday he was withdrawing a White House invitation to the Golden State Warriors after several players on the NBA championship-winning side voiced misgivings about attending a reception.
Writing on Twitter, Trump singled out Warriors star Stephen Curry, who on Friday had signalled that he would vote against attending the White House reception in any team discussion.
Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
It was not immediately clear if the White House had formally extended an invitation to the Warriors to attend the reception, a tradition that goes back several decades.
Speaking on Friday, Curry said the Warriors could make a "statement" by declining to attend the White House reception if an invite was offered.
"Obviously, you don't wanna rush to a decision on understanding the magnitude of what this means," Curry 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."
Speaking at the Warriors media day later on Friday, Curry said simply: "I don't wanna go."
Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James took aim at Trump's withdrawn invite.
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
"Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up," James wrote.
Curry said he considered James' response to Trump "brave".
The NBA Players Association also rallied swiftly behind Curry.
"Steph: consider this withdrawal a badge of honor!" NBAPA executive director Michele Roberts wrote on Twitter.
On behalf of the NBPA: pic.twitter.com/doWOQPWTSF— NBPA (@TheNBPA) September 23, 2017
Warriors players have been among the most outspoken against Trump's administration.
Last month, NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant said he would boycott the White House if the Warriors were invited, accusing Trump of escalating racial tensions in the United States.
"Nah, I won't do that," Durant told ESPN when asked whether he would attend the White House.
"I don't respect who's in office right now...I don't agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that."
Durant said he expected many teammates would follow suit.
"That's just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they'll all agree with me," Durant said, saying he believed Trump bore responsibility for stoking racial divisions.
"He's definitely driving it," Durant said. "I feel ever since he's got into office, or since he ran for the presidency, our country has been so divided and it's not a coincidence. When (Barack) Obama was in office, things were looking up. We had so much hope in our communities where I come from because we had a black president, and that was a first.
"So to see that and to be where we are now, it just felt like we took a turn for the worse, man. It all comes from who is in the administration. It comes from the top."
Trump a 'blowhard'
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has also been one of Trump's most searing critics from within the ranks of the NBA, describing him as a "blowhard."
"Frankly, I think it’s why Trump couldn’t be more ill-suited to be president, because he’s a blowhard," Kerr said earlier this year.
"You don’t see some of the qualities you talk about, the resilience, the ability to communicate, the compassion. None of that... To be a great leader, there have to be some qualities in there.
"Has anyone ever thought that Donald Trump was a great leader?"