Not that he was ever in touch with it — or reality for that matter — but Donald Trump has officially alienated the sports community.
Trump, who already faced widespread backlash for his relentless criticism of free agent quarterback and social activist Colin Kaepernick, recently butted heads with a series of prominent athletes and journalists.
ESPN anchor Jemele Hill garnered widespread support last week for candidly tweeting that “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
After Golden State Warriors’ point guard Stephen Curry announced he was considering whether or not to attend his team’s championship trip to the White House, Trump tweeted “Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
In turn, Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James showed his support for Curry by tweeting at Trump.
“U bum,” James wrote. “Going to the White House was a great honor before you showed up!”
James and Curry’s sentiment is spreading. The University of North Carolina’s championship basketball team announced last week they will likewise forego the traditional presidential trip.
Curry told reporters he hoped to “inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country.”
Curry’s mission has become a shared one in the sports community. More than ever, athletes and sports journalists feel empowered to use their platform to speak out against systematic oppression and bigotry such as that purported by Trump. Unlike the modern version of traditional network news, the sports world has evolved into a vibrant forum for social and political discourse.
“ESPN to me is at the center of a lot of conversations in America — sports are,” Atlantic columnist Vann Newkirk said in a speech at Harvard University on Sept. 20. “I refer to sports as the new American church and religion. ESPN is the mother church. I would look to ESPN and sports as a microcosm of America right now.”
Trump has obviously recognized the powerful societal sway these specific detractors hold. His response to Curry and criticism of Kaepernick this past weekend relay the fact that he feels threatened by their criticism.
At a rally Friday night in Alabama, Trump said that NFL owners should respond to player’s protests by getting “that son of a bitch off the field right now.”
Careful, Mr. President. Egregiously arrogant Twitter activity may be your norm, but starting a social media mudslinging war with the sports community is a quick route to drastic dips in already sub-par approval ratings.
Keep making enemies like LeBron James and Steph Curry President Trump.
Please, I beg you, continue to play with fire.
You might just get burned.
Zach is a junior pursuing a dual degree in print journalism and English. A proud Norfolk-ian, he enjoys long walks on the beach, English literature of the romantic period and anything pertaining to Harry Potter or baseball. Zach is an avid Red Sox and Patriots fan who can usually be found working at the Student Media Center or running along the James.