Michael Zagaris | San Francisco 49ers | Getty Images
Eric Reid #35 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline during the anthem
Playing in the background of the conflict with Curry was the NFL’s on-field protests meant to draw attention to race relations.
Trump’s statement in Alabama on Friday was interpreted by many to be a veiled reference to Colin Kaepernick, the free agent quarterback who took a knee in protest against police brutality while he was still playing for the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick’s supporters argue that his protest is the main factor behind why he hasn’t been acquired by another NFL team.
In a statement on Saturday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared to side with protesting players. He responded by calling Trump’s comments “divisive” and demonstrative of an “unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players,” he said. Goodell also lamented “a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said in a statement on Saturday that the peaceful demonstrations “are protected speech and a freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history.”
Still, “the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just ‘shut up and play,'” Smith said.
Since Kaepernick’s show of defiance, a number of other NFL players have followed suit. The debate has overshadowed the start of football season, where ratings have tumbled sharply as some viewers protest teams’ refusal to pick up Kaepernick, while others have opted to avoid the politicized displays.
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said Friday that the team expected to meet as a group in the coming days to decide whether to visit Trump’s White House.
–The Associated Press contributed to this article.