Warriors coach Steve Kerr had his say about President Donald Trump — and was given another chance to speak about the NBA vs. China — on Thursday.
Kerr had the floor while meeting with reporters prior to the Warriors’ exhibition vs. the Timberwolves. He responded to Trump saying Wednesday that Kerr looked like a scared “little boy” when he declined to speak out against the Chinese government in its dispute with the NBA.
The league is dealing with backlash from China over Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting for pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. (China calls the demonstrators “separatists.”)
In his remarks, Kerr used his meetings with the five U.S. presidents before Trump — Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — to offer a contrast between them and the current chief executive. The coach also commented on Trump’s penchant for quickly jumping from topic to topic.
From Warriors reporter Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who posted the full transcript of Kerr’s comments online (subscription required):
“It was really surprising, but mainly just because it was me. Then you stop and you think, this is just every day (with him). This is just another day. I was the shiny object yesterday. There was another one today. There will be a new one tomorrow. And the circus will go on. It’s just strange, but it happened.”
Kerr spoke of he and his mother meeting with Reagan in 1984, after Kerr’s father was killed by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon.
“All I could think of last night was the contrast of what has happened in 35 years. There was no regard for whose side you were on politically, political party, anything like that. It was just, you were an American. The office held such dignity and respect. Both from the people who were visiting and especially the people who sat inside it. It’s just sad it’s come crashing down. That we are now living this.”
Kerr remained circumspect on the NBA-China dispute, however, saying he still is not familiar enough with events there to offer an opinion.
“Again, I will speak on the things I’m comfortable with. I will do things I believe are helpful for my country. I love my country, despite what President Trump said yesterday.”
He demurred when asked whether the Rockets should fire Morey over his tweet, and he referenced his recent trips to China with the Warriors and Team USA to say that people in that country did not bring up “our record of human rights abuses” or gun violence in the U.S.
“Saying that is my right as an American. It doesn’t mean that I hate my country. It means I want to address the issue. But people in China didn’t ask me about, you know, people owning AR-15s and mowing each other down in a mall. I wasn’t asked that question.
We can play this game all we want and go all over the map. There’s this issue and that issue. The world is a complex place and there’s more gray than black and white. I realize that what’s popular these days is making it black and white. You’re either good or you’re evil. It’s convenient to do things that way, but not realistic.”
Trump made a point Wednesday of saying that Kerr and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich frequently “talk badly about the United States” (Trump’s characterization of the coaches’ comments on social justice issues) but chose not to speak negatively about China.
The NBA is being criticized, as well, for its attempts at finding a balance between Morey’s free speech rights and the league’s business relationship with China. The Lakers and Nets are playing two exhibitions in China this week, and NBA teams are playing against Chinese clubs in the U.S. during the preseason. The Rockets are in Japan for two exhibitions.
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