By Adam Spolane

After Donald Trump lashed out at NFL players kneeling in protest during the National Anthem at a rally in Alabama on Friday and then revoked the invitation to the White House from Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors on Twitter the next morning, Rockets guard Chris Paul took to Twitter to speak out against the President.

On Monday, during media day, the Rockets guard explained why he felt the need to speak out.

“Different people choose different ways to express themselves, however that may be,” he said. “Whatever that is, when you have kids and you’re supposed to be our leader, my kids shouldn’t have to be looking at television seeing the leaders saying the things he was saying.”

As expected, the President was a hot topic at Toyota Center Monday afternoon, and while nobody donning a new red Nike Rockets jersey was a poignant as LeBron James or Gregg Popovich, they certainly had their opinions.

“I think what (Trump) said was really unfortunate,” Rockets forward Trevor Ariza said. “We got people that go out every night do what they have to do for their families. You have people that protect this country go out and do things for us that have the rights that we do have, and for him to bash somebody or to belittle somebody for doing what they believe is right is just an unfortunate situation.”

Trump said all players that kneel in protest of the Star Spangled Banner should be “fired”. That led to even more protests across the league yesterday and condemnations from the league and its owners. When asked how he’d feel if his players decided to protest, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said he would have his players backs’.

“I will stand behind anybody right to protest in any way they see fit,” he said. “I might not agree with the protest. I think all Americans can disagree, certain protests you have one side or the other, but I think all Americans agree you have the right to protest, so whatever the players feel they need to do then I’ll be with them 1,000 percent. I hate it that the country is in a bad spot, it’s not great, and we don’t need to politicize sports. It’s a great platform, and I’ll support them 1,000 percent to be able to get the viewpoint out, but to be vilified because you speak your mind or you don’t like certain segments of our society, that’s not right.”

Last August, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem to protest oppression in the African-American community from police officers. He was joined by many other players across the league, and in their preseason opener, the Rockets locked arms with players from the New York Knicks. On Monday, Harden indicated that he and his teammates may do something similar this season.

“Each and every individual person has their belief, freedom of speech. People can stand up for their rights and do whatever they want,” Harden said. “I think as far as the Rockets, I think we’re going to come together and meet and figure something out together. That’s the entire motto for this year. We’re in this thing together, we’re going to communicate, we’re not going to have any slippage, and whatever one (person) do, we all do as a team, and so that’s something we’ll talk about in the locker room, and then, we’ll figure it out.”

However, Harden did not want to voice his opinion on the matter.

“I have my personal opinions and beliefs, I won’t make them public, but I don’t think it was fair in a sense of what (Trump) said. I won’t make (my opinion public). I don’t want to put that attention and draw that attention to the team and the organization. I think we are on a positive wave right now, and we gotta focus, we’re on a different focus level right now.”

Harden wasn’t the only Rocket to avoid giving his take. Rockets forward Ryan Anderson tiptoed carefully around the subject.

“We’re in a very tough time where sports and politics are becoming a conjoined thing,” he said. “To me, I want to steer clear of that. I don’t want to involve politics into my game. I love my teammates, I love this group, I support my family here. I love being a Houston Rocket, and all that stuff, I’m in no place to comment about that because this is all stuff that I think gets so carried away, and it’s really unfortunate the way things have turned, but for me, genuinely, I just want to focus on my teammates and this season and have a really great year.”

When asked if players should be able to protest, Anderson was just as evasive.

“There’s freedom of speech. There’s all these amendments. There’s all these important things in place, but it’s a tough position to be in for an athlete cause I’m not a politician. I don’t feel like I should speak out because I don’t have that time and effort to, you know, that’s not my life. My life is putting a basketball into a hoop, so for me, it is hard to steer clear of it, and obviously that was a question we were all prepared that we were going to have here because the world we live in right now, but for me, I want to steer clear, very far clear of all that for me personally.”

Anderson wanted to stick to sports Monday, which is what most in opposition of the NFL protests would like for all athletes to do, but Paul, who is also president of the NBA Players Association said that is something he won’t do.

“I mean, I’m not just a basketball player, and I don’t think guys are just athletes. At the end of the day when I leave here and take off my jersey and my uniform, when I’m in the car, I’m dad. I have a wife. I have kids. I’m a son to my parents, you know what I mean? I’m a lot more than an athlete.”


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