Athletes dismayed by Trump's refusal to condemn white supremacy in debate

Tom Lutz
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Craig Mitchelldyer/AP</span>
Photograph: Craig Mitchelldyer/AP

Athletes reacted with bemusement and dismay after Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacists during the US presidential debate on Tuesday night.

The US president was asked by moderator Chris Wallace if he condemned white supremacists and violence they have caused during recent protests across America. In reply, Trump pointedly did not criticise white supremacists, instead putting the blame for most of the trouble on left wing groups.

Related: Proud Boys: who are far-right group that backs Donald Trump?

“I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing. I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace,” Trump said. A study in July this year found 21 people had been killed in the US by left wing violence since 2010, compared to 117 by right wing violence.

Trump’s rival for the presidency, Joe Biden, then encouraged him to condemn the Proud Boys, a far-right faction that has been labelled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Proud Boys – stand back and stand by,” said Trump. “But I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem.”

The Proud Boys subsequently turned the “stand back and stand by” into a logo and of the group’s leaders, Joe Biggs, said he took Trump’s words as an invitation to “fuck them up”.

Stephen Curry, one of the biggest stars in the NBA, noted Trump’s words. “Stand back and stand by??????????? No further questions your honor! #vote,” he wrote on Twitter.

NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry noted Trump refused to condemn white supremacy: “And he still didn’t say it,” wrote the Toronto Raptors guard on Twitter. NFL wide receiver Randall Cobb tweeted: “He was asked about racism and responded about law enforcement...”

Others highlighted the dismal tenor of a debate between two of the most powerful people on the planet. “This debate is the best sitcom of the year. This is pure comedy and the level of disrespect is off the charts. #Truth #LordHelpus,” wrote NFL hall of famer Deion Sanders.

For many athletes, the takeaway from the evening was that Americans need to ensure they vote in November’s election.

“After watching the adventurous #2020PresidentialDebate and not really being able to hear anything... if nothing else, make sure you’re heard,” wrote WNBA star Renee Montgomery.

LeBron James, perhaps the most famous athlete in America, kept his message brief. “PLEASE VOTE!!!!!,” he tweeted.