A photo of two fans sporting customized Sacramento Kings jerseys reading “Build the Wall” and “Trump” in the front row of a recent Kings game led to some heated debate on social media. But the men in the photo said it was meant as a joke, not a political statement.
Daniel Goldsmith, a South Lake Tahoe resident who says he’s a lifelong Kings fan, told The Sacramento Bee by phone Tuesday that he’s the one who wore the white and purple “Build the Wall” No. 19 jersey, next to his friend, Pete Molinelli, who wore a black No. 1 jersey reading “Trump” on the back.
A photo of the friends was taken during Friday’s win over the Miami Heat at Golden 1 Center and got viral attention online, Goldsmith said.
“At the venue nobody really said anything except smiles and laughs, they thought it was funny,” Goldsmith said. “Nobody really had any opinions until the next day when I saw my phone and it was blowing up on Twitter.”
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A tweet posted Saturday that has since been deleted – but acquired thousands of likes and retweets – said: “Just wait until they find out the owner of the team is an immigrant,” referring to Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé.
Outrage at the men followed in social media comments. Some users called it offensive to Kings fans who were trying to enjoy the game, claiming “Build the Wall” is an inherently racist phrase, while others defended the jerseys as expressions of free speech and said they did not do any harm.
Popular Sacramento radio sports commentator David Weiglein, also known as Carmichael Dave, in several tweets referred to the two fans as “clowns.”
“That’s the reason it blew up – everyone had a reaction to that comment, and because they didn’t think it was quite accurate, so now we’re here,” Goldsmith said. “ ... I thought it was rather ridiculous, the things they were saying.”
As for Goldsmith’s intent? He said he wears controversial jerseys at Kings games “every once in a while” to be funny.
“I just do it to make my friends laugh, and it worked. Now I’m here. There’s really no other message behind it.”
Molinelli said he donned the jersey bearing “Trump” and No. 1, which was custom made, after Goldsmith bought it for him to wear at the game.
“I was up for the fun, I guess,” Molinelli said. “Everyone sitting around us at the game thought it was funny.”
Molinelli said he wasn’t against immigration.
“The wall is about illegal immigration and the border, and I support that,” he said by phone Tuesday. “At least we got people talking.”
A representative with the Kings did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday regarding the fan jerseys and any policies the team or venue may have in place regarding attire.
The websites for the Kings and Golden 1 Center include rules and FAQ pages with guidelines regarding guest behavior. In a code of conduct for arena, the only rule governing attire says: “There will not be any obscene or indecent messages on signs or clothing,” but does not further clarify what’s covered by the terms “obscene” and “indecent.”
A separate rule on Golden 1 Center’s website disallows disturbances, which include “profanity and/or offensive words, which are likely to provoke a violent reaction from others.” No further elaboration is given.
There do not appear to be any rules posted that specifically address political statements on fan’s clothing or items.
“I’m gonna make another one, that’s for sure,” Goldsmith said.
A Sacramento native, Goldsmith said he doesn’t necessarily consider himself a Trump supporter, adding that he doesn’t “have enough knowledge about politics to have any sort of opinion.”
Goldsmith, 33, said he owns an internet marketing company in the Lake Tahoe area, where he lives. He attends Kings games with friends and family when he visits Sacramento.
“That’s the only reason I go to these games: I’m a die-hard fan,” he said.
He said his dad has had season tickets since Goldsmith was a kid. They used to be nosebleed seats; now they’re front-row.
Goldsmith posted about the tweet going viral on his Instagram. His account there, which has more than 13,000 followers, includes occasional photos of him wearing jerseys with various numbers and sitting in the front row, though the lettering on the back is not visible in previous posts.
“I don’t know much, but I know we weren’t sitting on the floor when Obama was president lol #trump #kings #greatnowmomsjealous,” he captioned a previous photo taken at a Kings game.
The Kings don’t play another game at Golden 1 Center until Feb. 27, when they’ll host the Milwaukee Bucks.