LOS ANGELES, USA - US President Donald Trump triggered a backlash from the US professional sports world on Saturday, September 23, withdrawing a White House invitation to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors after condemning NFL players protesting the national anthem.
A day after Trump had decried activist National Football League stars as "sons of bitches" who should be fired for kneeling or sitting during renditions of The Stars and Stripes, the US leader turned his ire to basketball's reigning champions and star player Stephen Curry.
Curry said Friday he would not attend a White House reception if his team was invited in accordance with a tradition that stretches back several decades.
Trump responded with an early morning Twitter salvo on Saturday.
"Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!" he wrote.
Trump's outburst drew a stinging response from across the NBA, with Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James among the first to weigh in.
"U bum @StephenCurry already said he ain't going!" James wrote on Twitter. "So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up."
"It’s not about dividing. We as American people need to come together even stronger.” — @KingJames responds to @realDonaldTrump ’s comments. pic.twitter.com/UHpzXpb42K — UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) September 23, 2017
The Warriors meanwhile said in a statement they would plan their own trip to Washington instead of visiting the White House.
"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," the team said.
Leading figures across the NBA have been among some of Trump's most searing critics in the US professional sports world.
Curry's Warriors teammate Kevin Durant, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, said last month he would boycott any trip to the White House, accusing Trump of escalating racial tensions.
"I don't respect who's in office right now... I don't agree with what he agrees with," Durant said.
Trump's spat with Curry and the Warriors came less than 24 hours after the president raged against NFL players who have protested the national anthem.
The NFL has seen a surge in activism by players since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year refused to stand for The Stars and Stripes in a protest against law enforcement aggression against minorities.
In a tirade in Alabama on Friday, Trump said players who protested the anthem should be dismissed.
"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!'" Trump told a rally.
"You know, some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it, (but) they'll be the most popular person in this country."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reacted with dismay to Trump's comments.
"Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players," Goodell wrote.
'Tell them to stand!'
An unrepentant Trump doubled down on his criticism in further remarks on Twitter.
"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. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!" Trump wrote.
In a later tweet, Trump condemned Goodell, accusing the NFL chief of trying to "justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country."
"Tell them to stand!" Trump exhorted.
Others condemned Trump's use of the words "son of a bitch" to describe the anthem protesters.
Kaepernick's adoptive mother, Teresa Kaepernick, responded on Twitter: "Guess that makes me a proud bitch!"
Several NFL players also lined up to condemn Trump's latest rant.
"It's a shame and disgrace when you have the President of the US calling citizens of the country sons of a bitches," Minnesota Vikings running back Bishop Sankey wrote on Twitter.
NFL team owners also rounded on Trump. New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch described Trump's remarks as "inappropriate, offensive and divisive."
San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York, meanwhile, said Trump's remarks were "callous and offensive" and "contradictory to what this great country stands for." – Rappler.com