Kings guard Garrett Temple sees a familiar theme from some in his Twitter feed.
Why can’t he and other athletes just stick to playing sports? Why are they ruining fans’ escape from the real world by discussing politics and social injustice rather than posting selfies or talk of the new season.
It’s because for athletes, black athletes in particular, there is no simple escape from the issues away from competition. That President Donald Trump has advocated players who don’t stand during the national anthem lose their jobs hasn’t forced athletes to “stick to sports.”
If anything, it has caused them to say and do more. Many have taken to social media and around the NBA, several players used Media Day before the start of training camp to express their feelings about Trump and offer support to NFL players who were called out by the president as “sons of b------” for kneeling or sitting during the anthem.
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“At the end of the day, we’re human beings first before we’re athletes,” Temple said Monday. “It’s something that the thing that Colin Kaepernick kneeled for last year is something that affects all of us. And with our league as well as the NFL being majority black, I think it’s something that really affects us, hits home. For the president to say the things he said is obviously very unbecoming of a president.”
The Kings open training camp with practice Tuesday morning with sports and its intersection with society as prevalent as ever. The Golden State Warriors learned via Trump’s Twitter account they weren’t invited for the traditional White House visit afforded to championship teams, even though for months it was apparent the team wasn’t exactly looking forward to going.
Temple, who is also vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, said the response by NBA stars such as LeBron James and Chris Paul, along with the statement from Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive, show the NBA “does not stand for intolerance” and is “inclusive.”
Temple, however, sees plenty of feedback from those on social media who do not want him or athletes talking about the issues of the day unless they relate directly to games.
“I think they’re lacking empathy for sure,” Temple said. “Not understanding the social injustices because it hasn’t hit home, they haven’t had to go through it. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
This is the second year in a row protests and social injustice were part of the discussion before the start of the season.
The Kings stood during the anthem and locked arms for their first preseason game last year, shortly after Kaepernick began taking a knee during the anthem. Kaepernick was protesting the killing of unarmed black men by police and seeking to bring attention to police brutality. The former 49ers quarterback remains unsigned after opting out of his contract in March.
Trump’s profane description of NFL players at a rally riday in Alabama sparked more talk around an already hot topic. Temple said he initially didn’t think the clip of Trump’s speech was real, perhaps an internet creation.
“As bad as it sounds, he’s shown what kind of person he is, he’s shown his character since before we elected him president,” Temple said. “I’m really speechless that he’s the leader of the free world. Like (San Antonio coach) Gregg Popovich said, we’re a disappointment to the rest of the world right now.”
Temple said anything that would be done this season would be discussed as a team. The Kings’ first preseason game is Oct. 2 against the San Antonio Spurs at Golden 1 Center.
Kings coach Dave Joerger did not want to comment on the Warriors’ situation with Trump. It’s his job to keep players focused on playing while also understanding the political climate in the country and not making players feel like their voices aren’t heard.
“I think what’s positive in my role and the reason I really don’t want to comment on it is because I think what you talk about behind closed doors, I think there should be one voice (publicly),” Joerger said. “My No. 1 concern is our team and how our team goes about its business on a daily basis. So when we get to that point and things are done or said, hopefully it’s done with one voice in mind.”
Some players will choose to stay out of the chatter. Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said he’d probably get in trouble if he said what was really on his mind.
“I just try to not put the president’s name in my mouth,” Cauley-Stein said.
Forward Zach Randolph didn’t like hearing Trump’s profane references to NFL players.
“It was disheartening for a leader,” Randolph said. “You’re not supposed to lead like that. It’s just sad.”
Temple said the work that comes after protest is important. The Kings hosted town halls .with law enforcement last season and continued community work, which Temple does not expect will change. He also expects athletes to work together to tackle social inequality.
“What action is going to follow?” Temple said. “And a lot of that is wondering when Colin Kaepernick will be on an NFL team. I think he’s one of the 60 best quarterbacks we have in the world, I don’t think there’s a reason he’s not on a team besides causing a media distraction. For the NFL, that was really big for them to come together after a lot of their guys were called SOBs by the leader of the free world.”