The Golden State Warriors will visit Washington, D.C., this week for the first time since they won the 2017 NBA championship last June. But they won't be making the traditional visit to the White House after President Donald Trump revoked the team's invitation in September. At the time, Trump was responding to a Fox News report about star player Stephen Curry’s criticism of him, according to a Media Matters review of Trump’s Twitter feed and the network’s programming.
After the Warriors’ victory, there was speculation that the team, whose coach and players frequently use their platforms to discuss social justice issues, might skip the traditional meeting with the president. On September 22, during the team’s annual media day before the start of the 2017-18 NBA season, Curry told reporters that he didn't think the team should visit the White House in light of the president’s coddling of white supremacists during the protests in Charlottesville, VA, the previous month.
The NBA star said that refusing to meet with the president would send a message that the Warriors reject “the things that he’s said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right times -- that we won’t stand for it.” Curry added, “And by acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.”
According to the team’s general manager, at that point no decision had been made about whether the Warriors would visit the White House. But the next day, Trump made the decision for them.
“Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team,” the president tweeted at 8:45 a.m. EST on September 23. “Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
Trump’s tweet came roughly 20 minutes after Fox’s Saturday morning program, Fox & Friends Weekend, aired a headline segment about Curry’s reluctance to visit the White House.
“The Golden State Warriors are preparing to defend their NBA title, but it still remains unclear if they’ll celebrate their championship at the White House,” co-host Griff Jenkins reported. “Star Steph Curry is now making it clear he doesn’t want to go.”
The network then aired a video clip of Curry saying, “We have an opportunity to send a statement that hopefully encourages unity, encourages us to just appreciate what it means to be American and stand for something.” The segment featured the caption “Curry Wants To Skip White House Visit.”
The president’s tweet about Curry followed a series of tweets he posted about the defeat of health care legislation in the Senate that track with the network’s programming that morning. The president frequently watches Fox’s programming, especially Fox & Friends and its weekend edition, and tweets reactions to what he sees.
The White House subsequently blamed Curry, with legislative affairs director Marc Short saying that “he’s the one that injected politics into the invitation,” while the Warriors said in a statement they were “disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have open dialogue on issues impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise.”
Trump’s tweet drew a furious response from Curry’s fellow NBA players.
LeBron James, who has won the NBA Most Valuable Player award four times, called the president a “bum” in a tweet that was retweeted more than 650,000 times.
The Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal said the president was “a clown” who should be focused on issues like “Puerto Rico doesn't have water and power.”
Trump’s criticism of Curry drew special attention because it came the day after the president first lashed out at NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Trump demanded that the NFL team owners fire protesting players, creating a firestorm, with more players protesting in response.
“Never in modern times has an occupant of the Oval Office seemed to reject so thoroughly the nostrum that a president’s duty is to bring the country together,” The New York Times' Peter Baker wrote that weekend. “Relentlessly pugnacious, energized by a fight, unwilling to let any slight go unanswered, Mr. Trump has made himself America’s apostle of anger, its deacon of divisiveness.”
But while the president’s feud with the NFL lasted for months, he has not mentioned Curry on Twitter since his initial comment.
This, too, may partly be because of Fox’s programming.
Fox News fueled Trump’s NFL fight, with the president frequently re-engaging in the battle on Twitter immediately after seeing one of the network’s regular segments about NFL protests over the following weeks and months.
By contrast, Fox’s coverage of the Curry dispute basically dried up after the first 24 hours, according to Media Matters searches of the Nexis and iQ media databases. This lack of ongoing programming about the feud prevented the feedback loop effect with the president that we saw during his NFL conflict.
For his part, Curry has no regrets about the president revoking the team’s invitation. “If you're not going to celebrate the collective and the majority of Americans that are living in this country and that watch us play, and the fact that sports rallies all these different types of people, these different types of background together to celebrate the game ... I didn't want to go,” he told CNN’s Van Jones on Saturday.
With their White House invitation withdrawn, the Warriors plan to instead “go on a private tour of an undisclosed locale” where “local kids would join them,” ESPN reported Thursday.