I was born in Oakland, Calif. in 1951. I know I don’t look that old in my author photo, which is recent, but that’s neither here nor there—I’m 65. In fact, I’m so old that I was an avid fan of the Golden State Warriors back when they were the San Francisco Warriors (1962-1971).
I’ve been a huge fan of Oakland’s sports teams going back farther than the age of most people reading this. And as a lifetime fan of the many-time World Champion Oakland Raiders, Oakland Athletics, and the Golden State Warriors, I think this controversy about whether the NBA Finals-winning Warriors should or will visit the White House is very unfortunate.
In my day, with apologies to Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man, there would have been no question about whether the 1974-75 NBA Champion Warriors would have accepted an invitation from President Gerald Ford. Such visits were not yet common then. Maybe the Warrior players would not have been exactly thrilled with Ford for pardoning his predecessor, Richard Nixon, after Watergate. But I believe they would have gone anyway. Accepting such an invitation would have been, and is, the classy thing to do.
Where we stand in the current controversy: there has been no official invitation yet to the Warriors from President Trump’s White House; after the Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in five, an unsubstantiated rumor got started that the Warriors had unanimously voted to decline any such invitation, and major media outlets, including Newsweek, ran with it; GSW head coach Steve Kerr and superstar point guard Stephen Curry (among others) are not Trump fans, and have openly criticized the president; in a June 13 official statement via Twitter, a spokesman for the Warriors organization said:
Today is about celebrating our championship. We have not received an invitation to the White House, but we will make those decisions when and if necessary.
Here’s what I’m saying to the unstoppable Golden State Warriors, my home team since John F. Kennedy was president: Don’t politicize one of America’s greatest leagues and lofty championships. If asked, accept the invitation.
Many nights I was in attendance at the Oakland Coliseum (now Oracle Arena) to watch the Warriors play. They always made the playoffs in the early seventies, and the 1975 sweep of the Washington Bullets was sweet. Sometimes we’d get seats right down front and could hear the big high-top shoes stomping up and down the court, and see the intensity on the faces of players like championship finals MVP Rick Barry, towering center Nate Thurmond, and the irascible, dependable Cal Ripken of Bay Area basketball, Jeff Mullins.
Even when the Warriors didn’t win, opposition from Hall of Fame opponents like Lakers center Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain and our playoff nemesis, Milwaukee Bucks center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then going by his birth name Lew Alcindor), made for a thrill-packed night at the Coliseum.
From 1977 through 1986, the Warriors fell on hard times and did not qualify for the playoffs. Tickets became easier to come by, but it took faith to keep believing. There was a brief resurgence, and a classic semifinal game against Magic Johnson’s Lakers, but things got worse between 1994 and 2004, another lengthy postseason drought for the Blue and Gold.
There were fits and starts after that, great moments and mediocre seasons, all of which, for longtime and new Warrior fans—nicknamed Dubnation—set the stage for the remarkable team that holds the Larry O’Brien NBA Trophy today. For those who grew up with the Warriors playing right down the Nimitz Freeway from all points in the East Bay, the World Champion Warriors inspire memories of other great Oakland teams: the winningest 1970-80s Super Bowl champion Raiders, and the dynastic World Series 1970s Athletics.
It’s become a great tradition, champions visiting the White House, most notably popularized by President Ronald Reagan. Among many other such meetings, Reagan met with the New York Giants after their 1987 Super Bowl victory. President Kennedy met with the Boston Celtics when they won it all. The 1979 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburg Steelers and World Series-winning Pittsburg Pirates had a joint meeting with President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
The Golden State Warriors met with President Barack Obama in acknowledgment of their 2015 NBA Championship. The 2016 World Series-winning Chicago Cubs (praise God and pass the Halleluiah) met with President Trump.
The Golden State Warriors have always been a class act, win or lose. If an invitation from the White House comes, and President Trump should definitely extend one, the team should accept.
In his most recent comment on the issue, Kerr strikes what I believe is the right note, as quoted in USA Today:
I, like many of our players, am very offended by some of Trump’s words and actions. On the other hand, I do think there’s something to respecting the office, respecting our institutions, our government. And I think it could make a statement in a time where there’s so much divide and everybody seems to be angry with each other. It might be a good statement for us to go and to show that, hey, let’s put this aside, put all this partisan stuff aside and personal stuff aside, respect the institution.
President Trump, the ball is in your court.