If you’re looking for moral guidance in these troubling times, you might find it in a surprising place — the players and coaches in the NBA.
On Wednesday, two of the league’s biggest superstars, Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James and Golden State Warrior Steph Curry, used their platforms to speak out against President Donald Trump and his policies.
Curry, who was close with President Barack Obama but doesn’t often talk about politics, felt inspired to speak to The Mercury News after the CEO of his main shoe and apparel sponsor, Under Armour, praised Trump as an “asset” to the country.
“I agree with that description,” the usually soft-spoken two-time MVP said, “if you remove the ‘-et.’”
Meanwhile, James, who endorsed Hillary Clinton during the election and has been a longtime advocate for social justice, condemned Trump’s Muslim ban.
“I am not in favor of this policy or any policy that divides and excludes people.”
“I am not in favor of this policy or any policy that divides and excludes people,” he said, as reported by the Hollywood Reporter. “I stand with the many, many Americans who believe this does not represent what the United States is all about. And we should continue to speak out about it.”
While Curry and James are the two leaders of the league right now, they’re far from the first people in the NBA to be critical of Trump.
Some players have refused to stay in Trump hotels, and others have already said they won’t visit the White House if they win the NBA championship this summer. Since Trump first signed an executive order restricting migration from seven Muslim-majority countries, players have been even more outspoken. Toronto Rapters point guard Kyle Lowry called Trump’s Muslim ban “bullshit” multiple times, and the Rapters president Masai Ujiri called it “ridiculous” and “mind-boggling.” Milwaukee Bucks vice president Alexander Lasry called the ban a “massive problem” that “is not who we are as a country and doesn’t live up to our ideals.” (Bucks forward Thon Maker is a Sudanese refugee, and there have been concerns that the ban will eventually impact him directly, though it hasn’t yet.) Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng, a “proud refugee,” also spoke out passionately against the ban.
When it comes to progressive politics, diversity, and inclusion, the NBA is simply leaps and bounds above other men’s sports leagues in the United States these days. On the Bill Simmons Podcast this week, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said that he thinks the NBA is so well-suited to speak out on these issues specifically because of how many international players and African Americans make up the league.
“It’s almost like there’s a call to duty to speak up, and I think our players are responding.”
“To me it has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative, it has to do with being compassionate and fair, and I think Adam Silver has been amazing in leading the charge in terms of promoting equality,” Kerr told Bill Simmons. “I think our league understands the power that we have, our players understand the power, and they’re using it to promote these things that are critical”
Kerr, whose father was killed by terrorists in Beirut in 1984, has been one of the most outspoken critics of Trump and his policies throughout the campaign and since the election.
“I think the times call for thoughtfulness,” Kerr said. “We all of a sudden have this dangerous, scary time in the world, and I think people see that, our players see that and feel it. It’s almost like there’s a call to duty to speak up, and I think our players are responding.”
One of the NBA’s other most prominent coaches, Greg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, has also been vigilant in his resistance to Trump, and the league has had no problem publishing that resistance on its own website.
The NBA is not a monolith, of course. There are some players in the league with more conservative views, and many others who don’t feel comfortable raising their voices on political issues.
But James and Curry are the faces of the league; together, they have won the MVP award six of the past eight years. And when the most prominent faces in the league take a public stance against the most powerful man in America, it speaks volumes.
For his part, Curry is staying with Under Armour for the time being after accepting the explanation from the company’s CEO. But he certainly won’t be shy about making his voice heard, and says he won’t stay put if the company continues to align itself with Trump’s policies.
“If there is a situation where I can look at myself in the mirror and say they don’t have my best intentions, they don’t have the right attitude about taking care of people,” Curry said. “If I can say the leadership is not in line with my core values, then there is no amount of money, there is no platform I wouldn’t jump off if it wasn’t in line with who I am. So that’s a decision I will make every single day when I wake up.”