On Wednesday, I challenged myself to make a case that the Warriors should go to the White House after winning their second NBA Championship in 3 years. As I sat down to write the piece, I let out an audible “Oh boy.” I really had to convince myself.
But it’s the right thing to do. Whether you agree with 45 or not, he does hold the highest office in the land and it’s a position that is to be respected. The Warriors could represent a powerful moment of unity, which our country could certainly use right now.
These are the things I told myself.
But then I thought of the way my stomach flipped a little bit when I read Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins played golf with the president.
And the feeling of irritation when Tom Brady decided not to go to the White House while Barack Obama held the office. But also noting his more reflective moment, in passing on the opportunity this year as well, though for family reasons.
And then I thought of Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan saying, “When one of us is attacked, all of us is attacked,” a powerful and galvanizing response to a shooting that took place at a baseball field on Wednesday morning, where Republican members of Congress practiced for a charity event.
And also how Speaker Ryan’s same unifying sentiment doesn’t seem to apply when black Americans are victims of senseless violence. Maybe he has a different opinion of what “us” means.
I read Sally Jenkins’ column in the Washington Post with an open mind yesterday, the day following the shooting, acknowledging that I wanted to make the same point at a time when civility and humanity are so desperately needed. (Also I am a fan of Jenkins work on women’s basketball, including a column she wrote about my 2011 team restoring the rivalry between Georgetown and Maryland, but I digress).
I finished the article, irritated with myself for my prevailing thought.
So now the black guys have to play kumbaya.
Let’s rewind a little.
The Golden State Warriors are, in theory, colorless as an organization. But let’s be real—the only person on their 15 man roster who isn’t black is Zaza Pachulia. As champions they’re given the privilege to visit the White House as a testament to the perseverance, hard work, and talent that earned them a title.
But as a team of predominantly black men, this feels more like a burden than an honor.
I care not to jot down all the miserably tone deaf things the president and his administration have said that show how little they value diversity in this country. The very premise of his campaign, “Make America Great Again,” says enough for me. (And if you need help, “Great” is code for white.)
Jenkins quotes some very thoughtful authors; philosophically, I wholeheartedly agree with what they have to say. But why is this task put in front of the Warriors?
“(John) Inazu, scholar-author of ‘Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference,’ makes a point about tolerance. Real tolerance is not some gauzy idea of accepting all viewpoints as equal, valid and harmless. Real tolerance means enduring someone you are utterly sure is wrong.”
True. But “enduring” does not mean shaking hands and taking photos. Also—news flash—black folks in this country have endured a whole hell of a lot… Wait, and dare I say, still do.
Jenkins quotes more from Inazu, professor of law, religion and political majoritarian power, “‘When it comes to political disagreement, the decision of when to pursue dialogue and when to boycott [and therefore to forgo dialogue] is one of the most difficult to navigate.’”
Typically the honor of meeting a president following a championship is not the time for “dialogue.” It’s a time for jokes, trash-talk, and memorable moments and photos.
Furthermore let’s just say Steph Curry and Kevin Durant were interested in having a healthy dialogue with President Trump. What on earth have we seen from the president that even suggests it would be productive? Would he even hear them?
In fact, it would not surprise me if Steve Kerr, Steph Curry, and David West were not invited at all, given what they’ve said on the record about the president. (News of their rescinded invitations would probably be delivered—like everything—by tweets).
Who are we kidding? The Warriors at the White House will not be a seminal moment in our nation’s history; it will be awkward viral video fodder at best. Besides, the president has no more interest in meeting with the Golden State Warriors than he does inviting Comey to return to his staff.
At the core of your argument, I get you, Sally. I even appreciate it. Personally, beyond, “setting a powerful example,” I stopped myself. And then questioned whether that example would send the unintended message that it’s not important to stand up for yourself or your beliefs.
Look back at American history, particularly the experience for black people in this country, there’s a whole lot of turning the other cheek and being the bigger person. If you want to take race out of it, go even further back to the colonies’ revolt from the British. At some point you can’t keep shaking hands.
Like Paul Ryan said, “When one of us is attacked, all of us are attacked.”