Most Presidents would applaud the efforts of athletes to do good things in their community, particularly where they involve education. But Donald Trump is far from most, and last week he once again displayed the kind of intemperate, idiotic personality that is a disgrace from any politician, let alone one who is supposed to be the leader of a powerful nation.
Using his favorite medium Twitter (whose character limit seems ideal for his nonsensical rants and rage) Trump attacked both Lebron James and CNN anchor/host Don Lemon, calling them dumb and offering nothing but scorn for someone (James) he once highly praised.
Of course James was then playing for the Miami Heat, and Trump was a property owner in Miami. In addition, James had previously attacked Trump’s constant sniping at NFL players, and accused him of using sports to divide people (a fair criticism, although there are many other things and ways that Trump and his cronies do that) . The most amazing thing about this was Trump’s attack was on the intelligence, or supposed lack of it, that James and Lemon had, yet his own words were barely coherent and the sentiments expressed more like an angry teen than a President.
One thing Trump’s ranting has done is unite a bunch of people squarely behind James. One other thing Trump claimed in his incoherent rants was “I like Mike,” implying he preferred Michael Jordan over James. Jordan quickly weighed in by saying he fully supported what Lebron James was doing, and adding he had done many great things for the community. Other NBA players were quick to support James, even longtime rival Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. He told James to keep doing what he’s doing, and took another shot at Trump.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also responded quickly to the Trump outburst.
“Lebron is one of the all-time greatest NBA Players and one of the most accomplished athletes,” Silver said in a statement. “He runs a very successful media company. He’s sent hundreds of students to college and just opened a school in Akron where at-risk students will receive free tuition, meals and transportation. I greatly admire his intelligence and business acumen and have enormous respect and admiration for what he does in his community.”
What this furor also shows is once more how much difference there is between the NBA and NFL when it comes to Trump. The NFL seems to cower whenever he starts his “anthem respect” garbage, while the NBA ignores it, having already resolved that issue years ago, thanks to an agreement reached between the owners and players.
NBA head coaches Steve Kerr of the Warriors and Gregg Popovich of the Spurs have been quite vocal in their disapproval of Trump, while NFL head coaches have largely been silent. NBA owners also distance themselves from Trump, while there are a number of NFL owners who either voted for him or have maintained friendships with him. The Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, for instance, has publicly threatened to cut any player who doesn’t adhere to what Trump thinks players should do during the playing of the anthem. Even after the NFL announced a halt to the new rules and the start of meetings with players, both Jerry Jones and his son Steve repeated that threat until told to be quiet by the league.
While NBA Commissioner Silver has backed his players, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been silent on the issue other than to utter some nonsensical rhetoric about trying to get all sides to the table. The anti-Trump stance evidently isn’t hurting the NBA. The ratings for last season’s games were near record levels again, and the Finals, despite being a mismatch after Game 1, nearly topped last year’s, which set a record. The league also set all-time attendance records for regular season games.
Meanwhile the NFL, trying to appease Trump and failing to get this situation under control, has suffered ratings dips the last two seasons. Granted they remain the premier entertainment attraction from a sheer audience standpoint, and there’s no doubt that the new laws making sports betting legal will certainly give them a boost.
But when it comes to courage and standing tall in support of rights and player freedom, the NBA has shown once more it is way ahead of the NFL. They’ve also shown that the best response to the madness of the Trump presidency is strength, rather than weakness.