"The last time athletes have been this outspoken was with Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell. That's the last time probably we've seen this kind of division in the country and with civil rights issues," Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said in comments published by ESPN Sunday evening.
Kerr was weighing in on President Trump's weekend tussles with pro athletes and their political activism — from Trump's decision to rescind the Warriors' championship invitation to visit the White House over comments from point guard Stephen Curry to the president's multi-day attack on NFL players like Colin Kaepernick who kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice.
But Kerr didn't stop with a history lesson. He also had some thoughts on the present controversy:
"How about the irony of, 'Free speech is fine if you're a neo-Nazi chanting hate slogans, but free speech is not allowed to kneel in protest?'" Kerr said. "No matter how many times a football player says, 'I honor our military, but I'm protesting police brutality and racial inequality,' it doesn't matter. Nationalists are saying, 'You're disrespecting our flag.' Well, you know what else is disrespectful to our flag? Racism. And one's way worse than the other." [Kerr via ESPN]
Kerr said that before Trump's disinvitation tweet he was preparing for a civil visit to the White House despite political differences. Now, he added, that expectation seems implausible. "The idea of civil discourse with a guy who is tweeting and demeaning people and saying the things he's saying is sort of far-fetched," he said. "Can you picture us really having a civil discourse with him?"