Add Pro Basketball Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson to the ever-growing list of NBA players, coaches, executives and owners who condemned President Donald Trump following his remarks regarding NBA and NFL players over the weekend.
In an interview with The Undefeated, Johnson drew a parallel between Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry’s decision not to accept a White House invitation and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s absence from a visit while Barack Obama was in office.
Johnson also supported Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who called the president a “bum” on Saturday, and then spent much of Monday derailing Trump. James’ comments came in response to Trump rescinding his White House invitation to the Warriors and referring to NFL players who kneel in protest of racial equality during the national anthem as “sons of bitches” over the weekend.
“Why are you singling out the NBA and the NFL? For what?” Johnson asked The Undefeated. “Stephen Curry can say if he wants to come to the White House or not. Nobody said anything when Tom Brady said he wasn’t going when President Obama was sitting there. And now all the sudden Stephen Curry doesn’t want to go and he makes it a big deal? I think that’s wrong. And it’s the same thing with the NFL players who decide to kneel or sit on the bench. That’s their right. I was happy that the owners and coaches backed the players. So, it was really good.”
After attending three White House visits following Super Bowl wins when George W. Bush was in office during the early 2000s, Brady missed a 2015 trip to Washington, D.C., after another Super Bowl win during Obama’s presidency. The Pats QB told Pro Football Talk in February, “I wanted to go and didn’t get the opportunity based on the schedule. We didn’t get told until I think like 10 days before we were going, and at that point I had something I’d been planning for months and couldn’t get there.”
Brady has called Trump a “friend” on multiple occasions and was once spotted with a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker. The five-time Super Bowl champion missed yet another White House visit this past April, when “family matters” prevented him from accepting Trump’s invitation. Both his 2015 and 2017 absences made headlines.
Still, Johnson’s larger point is solid: Athletes have the right to state their opinions, and Twitter tirades against them should be beneath the office of the president, especially given all that is going on at home and abroad.
“I took it as a president, who first of all, is overstepping his stage,” added. “Stay focused on North Korea, job creation, what this country needs. You can’t take away, whether it’s a player or an individual, freedom of speech. And you have to be in touch with why everybody is protesting. He doesn’t understand that equality, diversity and inclusion is so important. And the fact that there are issues in urban America, which I’ve been dealing with for 30 years, that is going on in our schools, our community and our neighborhood.
“Guys stepped up and said different things. This is a sensitive situation. Racism is back strong in our country, unfortunately. One thing that is great about sports is that it brings all colors of people together. You have to remember that guys are playing with different races of guys.”
Johnson derided the president for “causing all these problems” and praised athletes for their work in the community. He also told The Undefeated that he supported Lakers players’ rights to speak freely on social issues and will leave the decision to protest or speak out on such matters in their hands.
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