— -- President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday morning that the Golden State Warriors are not welcome at the White House to celebrate their 2017 NBA championship.
There had been no previous indication of a White House invitation for the Warriors. ESPN reported late Thursday night that the NBA had been in communication with the White House on the matter and believed an invitation would be extended, if the team decided as a group to attend.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr told ESPN that the team was planning to meet to discuss a potential visit. Warriors owner Joe Lacob told ESPN that he planned to meet with the team Saturday morning before its first practice to discuss the issue, and that the White House was aware of the timeline.?
The Warriors released a statement Saturday afternoon confirming their intention to meet together as a team at the "first opportunity" to discuss a potential White House visit but said "we accept that President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited."
"We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them. We're disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have open dialogue on issues impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise," the statement said. "In lieu of a visit to the White House, we have decided that we'll constructively use our trip to the nation's capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion -- the values that we embrace as an organization."
The Warriors travel to Washington, D.C., to play the Wizards on Feb. 28.
Kerr and several Warriors players have been openly critical of Trump and his administration on multiple occasions. On Friday,? Stephen Curry?said he would vote no if the team were invited to the White House. Kevin Durant previously told ESPN that he would not go.?
Speaking later Saturday, Curry said his view was unchanged.?
"My stance is the same as it was (Friday) and even kind of cemented even further about how things in our country are going especially with (Trump) representing us in a very damaging way," he said.?
Asked his reaction to the president's tweet, the former league MVP called it "surreal."?
"I don't know why he feels the need to target certain individuals rather than others," Curry said. "I have an idea of why, but it's kind of beneath a leader of a country to go that route. That's not what leaders do."
The mechanism of inviting championship teams to the White House has varied with each administration, but it is generally offered by the president during a congratulatory call to a coach or owner soon after the NBA Finals. From there, the league office acts as a liaison with the White House to help schedule the visit.
James later expanded on his thoughts in a video posted on UNINTERRUPTED, saying in part: "He's now using sports as the platform to try to divide us. We all know how much sports brings us together. ... It's not something I can be quiet about.''
Information from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Chris Haynes and The Associated Press was used in this report.