“Nah, I won’t do that,” said Durant, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP. “I don’t respect who’s in office right now.”
Durant spoke to ESPN on Thursday as his hometown of Seat Pleasant celebrated Kevin Durant Day for all of his achievements on and off the court.
The Warriors visit the nation’s capital Feb. 28 to take on the Washington Wizards. The White House has not extended a formal invitation to the Warriors.
Durant expounded on why he would bypass a White House visit, a ritual for professional teams coming off championship seasons.
LeBron James took time during his annual charity event on Tuesday to discuss the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, taking a swipe at President Donald Trump and also imploring people to ask, “What can we do better to help change?”
“I don’t agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,” said Durant, who said it wasn’t an organizational decision. “That’s just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they’ll all agree with me.”
Durant’s hometown is 11 miles from downtown Washington, D.C. Ever since he was a kid, he dreamed of taking the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the front steps of the White House.
However, Trump’s divisive rhetoric over the past few years and his controversial public response to what transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend have caused many athletes and politicians to voice their frustrations.
“I just wanted to sit back and analyze everything and gather my thoughts,” Durant said. “I wanted to say something immediately, but I definitely want to be the voice of where I come from and people who have come from my neighborhood and deal with oppression.
“I’m representing a lot of people. As far as what’s going on in our country, for one, as an athlete, you have to commend Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, CP3 [Chris Paul] [and] Dwyane Wade for starting that conversation last year. Russell Westbrook also said something in his speech. A lot [of] guys with platforms have drove the conversation in a good direction. And what’s going on in Charlottesville, that was unfathomable.”
A white supremacist rally protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue was organized in Charlottesville last week. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed Saturday when a car, allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr., plowed into a crowd that was protesting the white nationalists. Over a dozen demonstrators were also injured.
Durant believes the president has played a role in the escalation of racial tension in the United States and the public rise of white supremacists.
“He’s definitely driving it,” Durant said. “I feel ever since he’s got into office, or since he ran for the presidency, our country has been so divided, and it’s not a coincidence. When [Barack] Obama was in office, things were looking up. We had so much hope in our communities where I come from because we had a black president, and that was a first.
“So to see that and to be where we are now, it just felt like we took a turn for the worse, man. It all comes from who is in the administration. It comes from the top. Leadership trickles down to the rest of us. So, you know, if we have someone in office that doesn’t care about all people, then we won’t go anywhere as a country. In my opinion, until we get him out of here, we won’t see any progress.”
Durant said the onus is on everyone, but more so on people of stature, to take a stand.
“For us to move forward, we need more athletes and people of power and influence to come out and speak,” Durant said. “It’s great to see a lot of athletes coming together and trying to direct a positive path for a lot of kids and a lot of people in this country who look up to us.
“It’s huge for us. It’s huge for sports. It’s huge for the influence we have, because we’re leaders at the end of the day. It feels good to see my brothers in the NBA and across sports speaking out.”
Many athletes and community leaders, including Durant, see giving back to their communities as a way of empowering the next generation and investing in the future. Durant said where he comes from, love was expressed. Parents not only raised their kids but also helped raise the kids in the neighborhood.
He said he believes that’s what we need to get back to as a nation — loving everyone.
“I grew up in a community that was 95 percent African-American and one of the most flourishing communities in the country,” Durant said. “And we did that by loving each other and continuing to uplift each other in our communities.
“But also, we fought for equality of all. We fought for wanting everybody in our neighborhoods to feel comfortable everywhere, amongst all people. And I think a lot of players that have stood up and talked about that have come from communities where we had to band together and rise up.
“… You should also commend a lot of the guys who haven’t said anything publicly but are doing a lot in their communities. Even though it looks bad, I can tell you firsthand, especially in our league, I see so many guys doing so much for their communities that they grew up in. I think it’s only going to get better if we look at it that way. The positive side of things. It’s only going to get better if guys keep pouring in and investing in their communities.”