We knew it was coming.
After Steph spoke up at media day on Friday, we figured it was just a matter of time until the president responded. Then on Saturday morning my wife, Margot, woke me up. “Here it is,” she said, and showed me Trump’s tweet. Our invitation, he wrote, “has been withdrawn” because, “going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team” and, “Stephen Curry is hesitating.”
First off, I’m pretty sure Steph wasn’t “hesitating”. He made it clear he wouldn’t go. Second, as I joked to the media Saturday, it was like the president was trying to break up with us before we broke up with him.
Regardless, it’s a shame. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet President Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama. I didn’t agree with all of them, but it was easy to set politics aside because each possessed an inherent respect for the office, as well as the humility that comes with being a public servant in an incredible position of power, representing 300 million people. And that’s the problem now. In his tweet to Steph, Trump talked about honoring the White House but, really, isn’t it you who must honor the White House, Mr. President? And the way to do that is through compassion and dignity and being above the fray. Not causing the fray.
Would we have gone? Probably not. 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. But he’s made it hard for any of us to actually enter the White House, because what’s going on is not normal. It’s childish stuff: belittling people and calling them names. So to expect to go in and have a civil, serious discourse? Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen.
Look, I’m a basketball coach and what I do obviously pales in comparison to what the president does. But our jobs are similar in at least one respect: If you want to be an NBA coach, you need to be prepared to be criticized. You kind of know that going in. If I coach poorly and we lose the game, I hear about it. That’s okay. It’s really where we coaches earn our money, accepting and dealing with criticism and keeping the ship moving forward. There has to be an inherent understanding when you enter into any public position of power that this is what happens. People are going to take shots at you and it’s incumbent upon you to absorb those shots. Maybe you respond diplomatically, but you maintain a level of respect and dignity. What you can’t do is just angrily lash out. Can you imagine if I lashed out at all my critics every day and belittled them? I’d lose my players, I’d embarrass ownership, I’d embarrass myself. Pretty soon I’d be out of a job. It’s a basic adult thing that you learn as you grow up: People aren’t always going to agree with you. And that’s OK.
Instead, we get Trump’s comments over the weekend about NFL players, calling them ‘sons of bitches’ for kneeling during the anthem. Those just crushed me. Crushed me. Just think about what those players are protesting. They’re protesting excessive police violence and racial inequality. Those are really good things to fight against. And they’re doing it in a nonviolent way. Which is everything that Martin Luther King preached, right? A lot of American military members will tell you that the right to free speech is exactly what they fight for. And it’s just really, really upsetting that the leader of our country is calling for these players to be ‘fired.’
The hard part is knowing what to do now. Margot and I talked for a long time Saturday morning about what to say publicly. I’ve probably been as critical of Trump as anybody but maybe it’s time to take a different course. There’s no need to get into a war of words. It’s about trying to hang on to the values that are important to us as an organization, a country, and, really, as human beings.
The fact is we live in an amazing country, but it’s a flawed one. I consider myself unbelievably lucky to live here, so please spare me the ‘If you don’t like it you can get out’ argument. I love living here. I love my country. I just think it’s important to recognize that we as a nation are far from perfect, and it’s our responsibility to try to make it better. And one of the ways to do that is to promote awareness and understanding and acceptance. Not just acceptance but embracing our diversity, which when you get down to it is not only who we are but truly what makes us great. And it’s not happening.
Remember, the president works for us, not vice versa. We elected him. He doesn’t just work for his constituents and his base. He works for every citizen. Once you take that office, you have to do what’s best for the entire country. Sure, you’re going to have policies that align with your party, but that’s not the point. Respectfully, Mr. Trump, the point is this: You’re the president. You represent all of us. Don’t divide us.
Bring us together.