Reaction filled the sports world when Sports Illustrated released a preview of their October cover, which featured several professional athletes, coaches and team owners, superimposed together, linking arms.
The white background of the cover was highlighted by the Sports Illustrated title in blue and the tagline “A Nation Divided, Sports United” boldly laid over a red highlight, resembling the American flag.
Sports Illustrated executive editor Stephen Cannella said the publication’s intent behind the patriotically-infused cover was to highlight the sports world coming together:
“This image of athletes of all races, of all colors of all sports, linking arms and standing together and saying we want to figure this out, but we’re going to stand united as we do it, that to me was the enduring message of this weekend.”
Not everyone shared the publication’s sentiment, but instead saw the cover as the epitome of how the original message of taking a knee has become muddled, especially since Colin Kaepernick, the pioneer of the gesture, was notably absent from the cover.
Stephen Curry was featured front and center of the now-controversial cover, linking arms with LeBron James and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. When asked by SFBay Wednesday, Curry expressed his distaste with the decision to leave Kaepernick out of the conversation yet again:
“That was terrible. It’s kind of capitalizing on the hooplah and the media and all that nonsense. If you don’t have Kaepernick front and center on that, then something’s wrong.”
Curry, who has been consistent in his support for Kaepernick as an athlete and social justice advocate, thinks the cover adds to the convolution of the original significance behind Kaepernick’s message of racial inequity and what Curry referred to as the “genesis of our stance”:
“It’s kind of hard to see how certain narratives take place, being prisoners of the moment. It’s about the message it’s not about the act. For the life of me if that doesn’t get across to everybody, it’s not disrespecting anything about the flag or the anthem.”
President Trump has recently painted a picture of the the NFL protest and Curry’s comments regarding not wanting to visit the White House as being unpatriotic and disrespectful to the nation. Curry and many others in the sports world believe the Sports Illustrated cover amplifies this narrative.
In response to why Sports Illustrated made the decision to exclude Kaepernick from the cover made up of stock photographs, Cannella said he felt Kaepernick’s presence was implied:
“In some ways even though his picture’s not there, Colin Kaepernick is there, I think we all know that.”
Kaepernick himself has yet to respond to the Sports Illustrated cover, or to NFL players’ resurgence of the same gesture that created negative backlash toward Kaepernick a year ago, but Curry said it’s important to not let the media hype distract from the intention:
“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 things.”
Curry said he feels the NFL players who participated in kneeling, linking arms or staying in the locker room during the national anthem over the weekend were doing their part in continuing the conversation and standing for what they believe in:
“Obviously they had a chance to respond to a terrible comment. You can kind of critique and nitpick who did what, and that’s again distracting from the true reason that people are taking a stand and doing what they feel is right.”
Curry’s comments last week were the catalyst for being uninvited to the White House, and he said he was thankful to Representative Nancy Pelosi for extending an invitation to the Warriors to visit the capitol in February:
“Hopefully we can rally a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds and a lot of different situations to share the same message, Nancy included.”
Curry said he understands that all eyes will be on the Warriors during the preseason opener against the Denver Nuggets at Oracle Arena this Saturday, not just for their game play, but for any potential reaction or gesture mirroring last weekend’s emphatic NFL reaction.
“Everybody has the right to do what they want to do and to voice what they want to voice and stand for what they want to stand for, and that will all show on Saturday.”