Golden State Warriors' coach Steve Kerr dropped the mic in his response to Donald Trump's hateful attacks on athletes exercising their First Amendment rights.
As he might have anticipated were he capable of thinking more than ten minutes ahead, Donald Trump has received a deluge of criticism and repudiation for his twisted interpretation of the First Amendment.
Trump’s despotic call for athletes who choose not to stand during the national anthem to be fired, coming after his hateful smears against them during a Friday night rally in Alabama, has been met with denouncement from all sides and across the country.
One of the most biting responses to Trump’s un-American rhetoric came from Steve Kerr, the coach of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Trump had lashed out on Twitter at Warriors’ star Stephen Curry, who had recently stated his disinterest in the traditional White House visit for a championship team. Trump petulantly declared that the invitation was “withdrawn.”
Following that crass attack on one of his players, as well as on all of the other athletes — notably, largely black athletes — for exercising their right to free speech and freedom of expression, Kerr made it clear where he stood.
“How about the irony of, ‘Free speech is fine if you’re a neo-Nazi chanting hate slogans, but free speech is not allowed to kneel in protest?'” Kerr said.
“No matter how many times a football player says, ‘I honor our military, but I’m protesting police brutality and racial inequality,’ it doesn’t matter,” he continued. “Nationalists are saying, ‘You’re disrespecting our flag.’ Well, you know what else is disrespectful to our flag? Racism. And one’s way worse than the other.”
He noted the unfortunate nature of the present reality under someone like Trump.
“It was an actual chance to talk to the president,” Kerr said. “After all, he works for us. He’s a public servant. He may not be aware of that, but he is a public servant, right?”
Ostensibly, yes. But Kerr harbors no delusions about who Trump really is.
“The idea of civil discourse with a guy who is tweeting and demeaning people and saying the things he’s saying is sort of far-fetched,” Kerr said. “Can you picture us really having a civil discourse with him?”
Indeed not. And the team was “unanimous” on the decision to forgo the White House visit.
“We stand for the things we think our country should stand for — inclusiveness, equality, diversity, joy and love. It sounds corny, but that’s what we stand for.”
Kerr does not come by his deep sense of patriotism and love of country lightly. His stance against Trump’s hateful rhetoric against athletes, just as his previous public opposition to the Muslim travel ban, is in part informed by personal tragedy.
In 1984, when Kerr was just 18 years old, his father, Malcolm, was killed by Islamic extremists in a terror attack on the American University of Beirut, where Malcolm was president.
With that painful part of history, Kerr was clear that Trump’s ban was exactly the wrong thing to do.
“I would just say that as someone whose family member was a victim of terrorism, having lost my father, if we’re trying to combat terrorism by banishing people from coming to this country, by really going against the principles of what our country is about and creating fear, it’s the wrong way of going about it,” he said in January.
The tragic loss of his father to hate-driven violence informed Kerr’s outspokenness on many thorny topics, from Middle East policy to gun control. Rather than turn him sour on other people, it gave him a broader outlook.
It’s crucial to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes and look at it from a bigger perspective,” Kerr said.
One person who could benefit mightily from such a worldview would be Trump. And the whole nation would be better off for it.