A Non-Sports Fan’s Take On Politics and Sports

The real reason that Trump disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles to yesterday’s White House celebration was because very few of the players planned to attend. Since no Eagles player knelt for the national anthem last season, this isn’t about protesting inequality or Trump’s attempt to redefine protest as an attack on those who serve in the military. The whole spectacle of championship teams being celebrated at the White House is falling apart because of the current occupant. Tim Reynolds has a good rundown.

The WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx were not invited to the White House to celebrate their most recent title, something [LeBron] James called “laughable.” Instead, the Lynx will spend Wednesday giving away new sneakers to more than 300 needy kids in Washington. Villanova, the reigning NCAA men’s champion, has not revealed if an invitation was sent. Many members of the U.S. Olympic Team that competed earlier this year in South Korea did not attend a White House reception.

Hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins and baseball’s Houston Astros have accepted invitations to the White House for the traditional meeting with the President in recent months, as have several college teams. When the New England Patriots went last year, half the team chose not to attend.

The Warriors, in lieu of going to the White House, spent that day taking a group of children to the National Museum of African American History and Culture a few miles away.

“I think the President has made it pretty clear he’s going to try to divide us, all of us in this country, for political gain,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who has often criticized Trump and his policies. “So it’s just the way it is. I think we all look forward to the day when we can go back to just having a celebration of athletic achievement and celebrate Americans for their achievement, their good deeds.”

When it comes to the Trump presidency, ending this particular ritual should be the least of our worries. But since all of this is happening in the middle of the NBA championship series, the whole conflation of politics with sports is inevitable. Thus we have a tortured comparison of the political significance of the Warriors and the Cavaliers from Derek Robertson.

The Warriors, soon to move to a state-of-the-art waterfront facility in San Francisco, play with a phlegmatic tech-guru élan and appetite for disruption. The Cavaliers, out of blue-collar Cleveland, look proudly backward at an unfashionable Jordan-era brand of superstar-centric basketball and wear uniforms with the Goodyear logo emblazoned on their shoulders. The two teams define not only their sport, but our national character. The matchup is nothing less than a clash between America’s two halves.

Not being a huge sports fan, I simply shake my head and have to assume that perhaps that actually means something to somebody. But I guess the Cavaliers are Trump people and the Warriors are Democrats. Eventually Robertson has to admit this:

At any rate, it’s a given that nearly everyone in the NBA opposes Trump himself—the Warriors declined to visit the White House after the 2017 championship, and LeBron James just today stated the obvious, saying “I know no matter who wins this series, no one wants an invite anyway.”

If he weren’t trying to evoke a political message out of the current championship with its star players LeBron James and Stephen Curry as central figures, perhaps Robertson would have noted that a far more interesting comparison would be the one between the NBA and the NFL. Warriors coach Steve Kerr teed that one right up for him in comments about the NFL’s decision to fine any team where a player took a knee during the national anthem.

So obviously, football is Trump and basketball is Democrats. Where is George Carlin when we need him?

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .