President Donald Trump strode into the NBA’s China morass on Wednesday, denouncing the reaction of Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to the controversy.
The NBA is dealing with harsh reaction from its Chinese business partners to a since-deleted tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey related to protests in Hong Kong. The league subsequently apologized for the backlash to Morey’s tweet but backed his ability to take a stand on the issue without speaking for the team.
Kerr and Popovich, both vocal critics of Trump’s policies in the past, were asked in recent days for their response to the issue.
“He was like a little boy, he was so scared. … He was shaking,” Trump said of Kerr’s reply. “He was shaking, ‘Oh, I don’t know’ … he didn’t know how to answer the question, and yet he’ll talk about the United States very badly.”
On Monday, Kerr had said he didn’t have a reaction to the NBA-China situation, adding, “It’s a really bizarre international story, and a lot of us don’t know what to make of it. So it’s something I’m reading about just like everybody is, but I’m not going to comment further than that.”
Popovich had praised NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s response to the Morey tweet without specifically taking a stand on the issue.
Trump commented Wednesday, “I watched Popovich, sort of the same thing, but he didn’t look quite as scared, actually. But they talk badly about the United States — but when [they] talk about China, they don’t want to say anything bad.”
Warriors guard Stephen Curry, another longtime Trump critic, said Wednesday at the team’s practice, “I just heard about the Trump thing. I gotta welcome Steve to the club.”
In 2017, after Curry had announced that he would be opposed to the then-NBA champion Warriors celebrating their title at the White House, Trump tweeted, “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
(Reporting by Field Level Media.)