SOMERSET, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Golden State Warriors say they will not go to the White House when they visit Washington early next year, announcing the decision hours after President Donald Trump tweeted he was withdrawing the invitation.
Trump responded Saturday on Twitter to Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, who has made clear he’s not interested in a traditional White House trip. Curry told reporters Friday: “I don’t want to go … my beliefs stay the same.”
Trump weighed in Saturday from his golf club Bedminster, New Jersey. He said: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
It was not immediately clear whether Trump was rescinding the invitation for Curry or the entire team.
The Warriors officially announced in a statement Saturday afternoon they would not visit the White House.
“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 has made it clear that we are not invited,” the statement read. “We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them. Were disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have open dialogue impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise.”
Instead of the traditional post-championship visit to the White House, the team said they’d use their trip to Washington “to celebrate equality, diversity, and inclusion.”
The tweet about Curry and the Warriors came one day after Trump told a rally in Alabama that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem. Several NFL players, starting with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest police treatment of blacks and social injustice.
“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” Trump said, encouraging owners to act.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump said to loud applause.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded with a statement early Saturday, saying:
“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.”
NFL Player’s Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith also issued a statement in response to Trump’s remarks, saying:
“The peaceful demonstrations by some of our players have generated a wide array of responses. Those opinions are protected speech and a freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history. This expression of speech has generated thoughtful discussions in our locker rooms and in board rooms. However, the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just “shut up and play.”
“NFL players do incredible things to contribute to their communities. NFL players are a part of a legacy of athletes in all sports who throughout history chose to be informed about the issues that impact them and their communities. They chose – and still choose today – to do something about those issues rather than comfortably living in the bubble of sports. Their decision is no different from the one made by countless others who refused to let “what they do” define or restrict “who they are” as Americans.”
“No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights. No worker nor any athlete, professional or not, should be forced to become less than human when it comes to protecting their basic health and safety. We understand that our job as a Union is not to win a popularity contest and it comes with a duty to protect the rights of our members. For that we make no apologies and never will.”
Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Friday the team has had discussions with the White House, and that Golden State owner Joe Lacob also would be involved in the decision on whether to go. The Warriors did not immediately respond to a request for reaction to Trump’s tweet early Saturday. They were scheduled for an afternoon media availability following their first practice.
Curry said Friday a decision to not visit the White House would only be a first step.
“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,” Curry said. “It’s not just the act of not going. There are things you have to do on the back end to actually push that message into motion.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told The Players’ Tribune in July he believes teams should visit the White House when invited, though also said he would not order anyone to make such a trip.
“I think that these institutions are bigger than any individual politician, any individual elected official,” Silver said then. “And it concerns me that something like going to the White House after winning a championship, something that has been a great tradition, would become one that is partisan. I will say, though, even though I think that teams should make decisions as organizations, that I would also respect an individual player’s decision not to go.”
Cleveland Cavaliers superstar forward LeBron James appeared to sound off against the commander in chief on Twitter early Saturday, tweeting: “U bum @StephenCurry already said he ain’t going! So therefor ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”
Trump has met with some teams already in his first year in office.
Clemson visited the White House this year after winning the College Football Playoff, some members of the New England Patriots went after the Super Bowl victory and the Chicago Cubs went to the Oval Office in June to commemorate their World Series title. The Cubs also had the larger-scale, more traditional visit with President Barack Obama in January, four days before the Trump inauguration.
And if the Warriors don’t want to meet with Trump, they may still get a welcome in Washington: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California has said she would like to bring the team to the Capitol.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)