Joakim Noah skips military dinner, cites 'mixed feelings' and anti-war stance

— -- WEST POINT, N.Y. -- New York Knicks center Joakim Noah says he skipped a team dinner at the U.S. Military Academy that featured cadets and a speech by a former colonel because he is against war.

Noah added he had "mixed feelings" about spending time at the academy, where the Knicks are holding training camp this week, because he is opposed to the idea of young troops fighting in wars.

"It's hard for me a little bit. I have a lot of respect for the kids who are out here fighting. But it's hard for me to understand why we have to go to war, why kids have to kill kids around the world," Noah, explaining his decision not to attend the dinner, said after Friday's practice. "So I have mixed feelings about being here. I'm very proud of this country. I love America but I just don't understand kids killing kids around the world."

Noah added: "At the end of the day, I'm not anti-troops. It's just not comfortable for me to see kids going out to war and coming back having seen what they've seen, having done what they've done. It's sad for me. It's sad for me because they're just sent out for things that I don't really want to get into it to be honest with you. It's hard for me."

A West Point spokesman said Noah's decision to use the academy to make a statement was inappropriate.

"The U.S. Military Academy at West Point develops leaders of character for the defense of our nation," Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker said. "We are disappointed and feel Mr. Noah's choice of West Point to make a statement is inappropriate because of the great sacrifice that has originated from this institution over our Nation's history."

Noah disputed the idea he was trying to make a statement by missing the dinner. He said he just wasn't comfortable in the military setting.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said he supported Noah.

"That's his right. He wants to be a part of the team group and do everything the team is doing. He just didn't feel comfortable (attending the dinner)," Hornacek said. "We're not going to pressure him into doing that. We had the speaker who I thought was fantastic. I told him, maybe we can get a little copy, if there's a copy of the speech, just so he can hear some of it. That's his right."

The ex-colonel spoke to the Knicks about "things that he's learned in his experiences and how it can translate into basketball," according to Hornacek.

Hornacek was asked if he understood Noah's point of view.

"Oh, absolutely," Hornacek said. "Jo's done, in all his stuff that he does against gun violence and all that, he just didn't feel comfortable, so that's plenty fine with us."

Noah, who has dual citizenship in the United States and France, said he hadn't spoken to any cadets on campus. But he's spoken to members of the military in the past.

"I actually really like hearing what they say. It's usually very sad," the 31-year-old said.

More generally, Noah added that he supports athletes using their platforms to call attention to different social issues, as some have done in recent months.

"I think there's a lot of topics that definitely need to be more than addressed," said Noah, whose foundation, Noah's Arc, is committed to reducing violence in Chicago and elsewhere. "I think it's a very important time right now. I think it's great athletes are taking a stand. But it has to be about more than that. This country's out of control. Kids killing kids. And it has nothing to do with, people are talking about the anthem but that's not the point. There are things that need to be fixed."