WASHINGTON — John Wall, Bradley Beal and other Washington Wizards players on Monday joined the dozens of professional athletes who have criticized President Donald Trump for his controversial comments aimed at NBA and NFL players.
During the Wizards’ preseason media day, Beal called Trump “a clown” and “not a leader” and Wall said he didn’t respect the president.
Trump publicly called on NFL owners to fire players that kneel in protest during the national anthem during a political rally on Friday, referring to those players in vulgar terms. The next morning, Trump tweeted that he had rescinded the NBA champion Golden State Warriors’ invitation to the White House after Steph Curry decided to abstain from meeting the president.
Beal was the most outspoken of the Wizards. In a tweet Saturday, Beal used a clown emoji when questioning Trump’s decision to uninvite the Warriors.
How you gonna withdraw an invite that somebody already said they weren’t attending? 🤔🤡
— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) September 23, 2017
In front of the media on Monday at Capital One Arena, Beal stuck to the metaphor and went further.
“To me, you’re a clown,” he said of the president. “To do something like this, that’s unacceptable. That’s not what a leader does. Your job is supposed to bring everybody together, and everybody in the world feels that since you got in office, that hasn’t been the case.”
The 24-year-old shooting guard also said Trump had more important things to worry about.
“There’s a lot of issues going on in the world, like Puerto Rico doesn’t have water and power (due to Hurricane Maria) and they’re still part of the U.S., but you’re worried about guys kneeling during the national anthem,” Beal said.
Wall, Washington’s star point guard, followed Beal in criticizing the president.
“I don’t respect him. I feel like you can’t control what people want to do, and we have bigger issues in this world that you need to be focusing on instead of focusing on all these people taking a knee,” Wall said. “It means something more important. They’re doing it for a reason, and you can’t do nothing but respect their decision.”
Wizards’ head coach Scott Brooks, entering his second season with the franchise, said he hadn’t yet talked with the team about the issue or the possibility of team-wide anthem actions this season. He indicated that any decision will be a unanimous one.
“I think it’s stronger when you do it in a group, in a group setting. Whatever we decide on, we’ll do it together,” Brooks said.
Center Marcin Gortat, a native of Poland, was initially reluctant to offer his opinion on the matter. When pressed, he defended athletes’ right to protest and encouraged his peers to use their platform.
“It’s not like we are random people in the streets,” Gortat said. “People buy tickets to the games. They come and watch us, they admire us. Some of us have a few million followers on Instagram, Twitter and the other social media. I truly believe we have an impact in the community, and if somebody wants to speak up, he can speak up.”
Gortat’s point about athletes’ platforms echoed Beal, who said he would never “go back on” his statements about Trump.
“Sometimes whether athletes realize it or not, we’re role models,” Beal said. “People view our voices as having more power and say-so than probably the rest of the world, because people look up to us as athletes and they see us on TV every day.”
“We feel like we have a powerful voice in one way or another,” Beal added. “So if I can reach one person, that’s everything.”