President Donald Trump suggested Stephen Curry is not welcome at the White House after the Golden State Warriors star told reporters that he would prefer to sit out of the customary trip made by championship sports teams to Washington.
Trump tweeted Saturday morning that it's a "great honor" when they're feted by the president, but that "Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore [sic] invitation is withdrawn!"
Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
It was enough to garner an immediate response from one of the biggest names in sports, Cleveland Cavaliers star Lebron James, who directed a tweet at Trump that began, "U bum."
But Trump's lashing out against certain professional athletes went further Saturday afternoon, when he tweeted that players who want "the privilege of making millions of dollars" in the NFL and other leagues then shouldn't be allowed "to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem."
"If not, YOU'RE FIRED," he said. "Find something else to do!"
Trump's tweets come after a freewheeling political rally in Alabama where he blasted NFL players who kneel during the national anthem and called for them to be sacked.
His presidency has spurred some in the sports community to be more vocal about their political views.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, one of those who have been critical of Trump's policies, has said the team has yet to receive an official invite from the White House after their NBA Finals win against the Cavaliers, but players would decide together whether or not to accept one.
Trump in his initial tweet was unclear whether he was withdrawing only Curry's invitation or the entire team's.
Curry, a two-time MVP, told ESPN on Friday that no matter what the team decides in terms of traveling to Washington, they would be guided by the hope of sending "a statement that hopefully encourages unity, encourages us to appreciate what it means to be American and stand for something."
Curry, who inked the first $200 million contract in NBA history this summer, is not known to court controversy and has become a pitchman for Under Armour and Nissan's Infiniti. The 29-year-old has burnished a reputation as a family man with his TV chef and wife, Ayesha, and their two young children.
Still, Trump's tweet was met with sharp attacks by other basketball players, including James and Curry's teammate, Draymond Green.
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
With everything that's going on in our country, why are YOU focused on who's kneeling and visiting the White House??? #StayInYoLane— Chris Paul (@CP3) September 23, 2017
Still wondering how this guy is running our country.... ??????— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) September 23, 2017
The NBA did not immediately react to Trump's tweet about Curry. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told The Players' Tribune in July he believes teams should visit the White House when invited, though also said he would not order anyone to make such a trip.
The Warriors were expected to comment later Saturday after their first opening practice of the season.
Athletes have previously declined invitations to the White House when their team is being honored, a tradition that dates back to the Reagan administration.
In January, after most members of the Chicago Cubs visited President Barack Obama's White House — only five players missed the trip — following their World Series win, many chose not to return to meet Trump in June.
None of the Cubs openly said politics was the reason for their absence.
"I'm trying to see like the dinosaur museums," Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. told reporters when asked whether he would attend.
In April, six members of the New England Patriots skipped a Rose Garden celebration for their Super Bowl victory, with four of them — Martellus Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, Devin McCourty and Chris Long — saying Trump as president influenced their decisions. Tom Brady also did not join, but the longtime quarterback said he had a family issue that required his attention.
The Warriors previously visited the White House in 2016 under Obama after winning the 2015 NBA Championship Finals.
Trump's disdain for certain athletes was also on display Friday, when he vented about his belief that football players who don't stand during the national anthemin protest should be fired.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you'd say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired," Trump told the enthusiastic crowd, also mentioning that he didn't think the sport was violent enough.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hit back at Trump's criticism, calling his comments "divisive" and showing an "unfortunate lack of respect."
Trump's remarks expose "a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities," Goodell added.
Several athletes, including a handful of NFL players, have refused to stand during "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest of the treatment of blacks by police. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the trend last year when he played for the San Francisco 49ers.
Jemele Hill, the ESPN SportsCenter anchor who called Trump a white supremacist to robust criticism from the White House, fired off a few tweets in response to the president's tweet about Curry. Her first tweet welcomed Curry to the increasingly less exclusive club of people the president has attacked on Twitter:
Hey @StephenCurry30, welcome to the club bro ??— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 23, 2017
You can't be uninvited to something you weren't going to anyway pic.twitter.com/oZVmDn5ClH— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 23, 2017