DOWNTOWN SACRAMENTO — It was supposed to be media day where the Sacramento Kings would come in for the opening day of training camp to do promos, take photos, mingle with the local press and talk casually about the upcoming season.
In some instances, that’s how it played out at the Kings’ Training Center. But most of the questions kept leading back to the disturbing comments made by President Donald Trump on Sept. 23 in reference to NFL players kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem.
Trump, in Alabama, made some divisive remarks when he said that NFL owners should take action when they see players “disrespecting the flag” and should respond with “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.”
Garrett Temple, who is starting his eighth year in the NBA, said he was “shocked” when he heard what Trump said. But the Kings’ shooting guard factored in the President’s character to put everything that was said in context.
“I really was shocked until I saw other clips of it, and as bad as it sounds, I wasn’t surprised because he has shown what type of person he is,” Temple told The OBSERVER. “He showed us his character before the election. I’m really speechless. He’s the leader of the free world. It’s like (San Antonio Spurs head coach) Gregg Popovich said, ‘We’re a disappointment to the rest of the world right now.’”
Across the country, NFL teams stood in solidarity — players, coaches, and owners alike — to show their displeasure of No. 45’s political rant and express their First Amendment rights. In town to play the Chicago Bears, the Pittsburgh Steelers elected to stay in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem.
The whole deal started last season when then San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in a silent protest against the shooting of unarmed African Americans. Kaepernick has yet to earn a job in the NFL since he became a free agent, many believe because of his social stance.
In the past couple of seasons, the Kings have done some sort of protest to bring awareness of racism and inequality. Most of the last season they locked arms during the playing of the National Anthem.
“The things that Colin Kaepernick knelt for last year affect all of us,” Temple said. “With our league and the NFL being majority Black I think it’s something that hits home. Now, like someone said, ‘What comes next?’ What’s the action after the protest. Protest is what cause awareness.”
Zach Randolph said the president’s comments were “disheartening,” third-year player Willie Cauley-Stein said Trump is a “clown,” and newcomer point guard George Hill said, “If there’s a problem with kneeling down on one knee, then kneel down on both and pray for all the hatred.”
“Sometimes it feels more ashamed to be part of the U.S. with we’ve got going on today,” Hill said.
Kings head coach Dave Joerger was asked about Trump’s remarks, too. But in a classy and respectful way, he refrained from jumping into the fray. He had no comment.
Joerger only concern is that his players not be distracted and if they need support he will provide it, he said. If the players want to talk to him about the situation he rather talk to them privately instead of going public.
“I’m in charge with leading a group of men and in doing that I have a responsibility to all of them,” Joerger said. “We spend more time together than we do with our families. I think what’s positive in my role, the real reason why I don’t want to comment on it, is because what you talk about behind closed doors is (where) there should be one voice.”
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer