Report: NBA teams among many in pro sports avoiding Trump hotels

The Trump SoHo hotel in New York in December 2016. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers made other arrangements for players who did not want to stay at a New York hotel branded by President-elect Donald Trump. (AP)

For many years, a number of NBA teams and players seeking comfort during trips to New York, and easy access to the home arenas of the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, favored the Trump SoHo hotel. But as President Donald Trump’s politics and actions have resulted in clashes with many in the NBA, and in the sporting world at large, the reverberations have begun to negatively affect some of the hotels that bear his name. According to a report in the Washington Post, teams across America’s four major professional sports have in recent years begun avoiding Trump hotels in droves.

After Trump entered the U.S. presidential race in June 2015, campaigning with rhetoric that many in communities of color found to be divisive, NBA teams were among the first to discontinue their relationships with Trump hotels, according to Tim Bontemps and David Fahrenthold of the Post:

That summer, the [Indiana] Pacers stopped staying at Trump SoHo. A spokesman blamed problems with bus access.

So did the Dallas Mavericks, whose owner, Mark Cuban, became one of Trump’s loudest critics in 2016. Cuban declined to comment about the team’s decision.

In 2016, after Trump had captured the GOP nomination, more NBA teams left.

The Memphis Grizzlies quit Trump SoHo. No connection to politics, the coach said.

So did the Thunder. The team would not comment on why.

The Milwaukee Bucks stopped being Trump customers the following year — after first trying, and failing, to pull out of a Trump Chicago reservation during the preseason, according to team officials. When the Bucks returned to Chicago in the regular season, they had a new hotel.

Soon after Election Day, Marc Stein reported that the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies were avoiding staying at Trump properties. Bucks forward Jabari Parker was among the most vocal supporters of his team’s decision:

“I’m pretty proud for my owner, representing us and representing himself, and not trying to represent our organization with controversy.

“You don’t want to endorse hate; you don’t want to endorse racism. You don’t want to support controversy.

“I’m really proud we won’t be staying there because I couldn’t be comfortable being around him and his businesses. I know he’s our president. But it’s just going to take some time. And he hasn’t publicly come out with an apology for anyone or for the things he said.

Several members of the Cleveland Cavaliers, including superstar LeBron James, were also excused from staying at the Trump SoHo during a December road trip. James, who had endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and stumped for her during an Ohio campaign stop, later insisted that he and his teammates were making no specific statement by declining to stay at the hotel. James has since made more direct and pointed statements about his position on the president, who last month criticized ongoing protests by NFL players and responded to Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry’s disinterest in visiting the White House by saying the Warriors’ invitation had been “withdrawn.”

As time has passed, the chasm has widened. Out of the 17 NBA teams Bontemps and Fahrenthold found who had previously stayed at Trump hotels, 16 said they had stopped staying in those properties. The only team that declined to comment were the New Orleans Pelicans.

As usual, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr summed up the principles behind this trend very succinctly.

“The president has seemingly made a point of dividing us as best he can,” Kerr told the Post. “He continually offends people, and so people don’t want to stay at his hotel. It’s pretty simple.”

It’s not just the NBA, either. Overall, out of the 105 teams that the Washington Post reached out to, 71 claimed to not have stayed at Trump hotels in recent years. Given the president’s insistence on continuing his war of words with his critics in the world of sports and beyond, it seems safe to say that this won’t be changing anytime over the next four years.

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