Sports Illustrated dedicated its cover to the recent protests against racial inequality that have spiked since President Donald Trump criticized NBA and NFL athletes over the weekend, but the result was shortsighted, excluding the one man who really belonged front and center: Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who first knelt during the national anthem to protest social injustice.
As a result, the athlete who was Photoshopped front and center onto the cover — Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry — took serious issue with the magazine’s decision to pose him linking arms with Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Curry first made his displeasure known in an Instagram post pointing out Kaepernick’s absence. The two-time NBA MVP simply responded with an extended, “Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”
Curry then elaborated after Wednesday’s practice.
“That was terrible,” he told reporters. “It’s just kind of capitalizing on the hoopla and the media and all that nonsense. The real people that understand exactly what’s been going on, and who’s really been active and vocal and truly making a difference, if you don’t have Kaepernick front and center on that, something’s wrong.
“It’s kind of hard to see how certain narratives take place, being prisoners of the moment. I was kind of joking around yesterday when I saw that certain Instagram handle. At the end of the day, that stuff really doesn’t matter. It’s about the true message and really highlighting the people that are doing the right thing.”
Curry found himself at the eye of a weekend tweet storm from Trump, when the president rescinded a White House invitation to the NBA champion Warriors after Curry made clear his intent not to attend.
James then rushed to Curry’s defense:
On Monday, the Cavaliers star went even further in his criticism of the president, who referred to NFL players who kneel in protest of racial inequality during the national anthem as “sons of bitches.”
Goodell’s inclusion on the Sports Illustrated was especially strange, though, mostly because Kaepernick is the obvious NFL face of the movement, and the commissioner issued an apathetic response to Trump’s verbal attack on both the players and the billion-dollar industry as a whole:
For Sports Illustrated’s part, executive editor Stephen Cannella tried to explain the magazine staff’s decision, telling Sports Illustrated now, “What we wanted to capture with this cover [was], yes, the news of the weekend. But we thought the enduring message of what we saw, especially on Sunday in the NFL, was this sense of unity.”
The headline on the cover read: “A nation divided, sports united.”
That, too, was a misstep.
While the NBA seemed fairly united in its support of racial equality and opposition of Trump, sports as a whole — just like the country — are not operating in unison.
Trump propped up the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins for accepting his White House invite after he rescinded one from the Warriors, and NASCAR’s Richard Petty went so far as to suggest the protesting athletes “ought to be out of the country.”
As Curry said, “At the end of the day, that stuff really doesn’t matter. It’s about the true message and really highlighting the people that are doing the right thing.” Sports Illustrated just missed the call.