A New York Democratic lawmaker has defended NFL players kneeling to protest during the national anthem reassured Steph Curry and LeBron James that there are "members of Congress" who "have your back."
Speaking to Congress on Monday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said that while "we clearly have come a long way in America" regarding race, "we still have a long way to go."
"There are some in this country who want to sugar coat the African American experience in the great United States of America, but the facts are the facts," he said "In this country, this African American community has been forced to endure slavery, rape, kidnap, lynching, Jim Crow, segregation, mass incarceration, and a police brutality epidemic that continues to this very day."
It was in this context, Jeffries said, that athletes like Colin Kaepernick and others "bravely chose to kneel down so that others may have the courage to stand up."
"There are some who have criticized these athletes as unpatriotic, but their actions are uniquely American," Jeffries said. "Liberty and justice for all is an American value. Equal protection under the law - that's an American value. Freedom of speech and expression as embedded in the First Amendment, that's an American value."
That's why it's surprising that there's "racism coming even from folks in the White House," Jeffries said.
"I find this ironic, because this is the same group of people at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who regularly refuse to criticize Vladimir Putin and defend Russia's interference with our election undermining American Democracy for the first time in our nation's history," he said. "How dare you lecture us about what's patriotic?"
Earlier, this year's NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors, announced they will officially skip the traditional White House visit following Trump's criticism of Steph Curry, who said he didn't want to visit the White House amid growing racial tension. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Chris Paul were among the NBA stars who came to his defense.
Jeffries said he came to the House floor to "make it clear to all of the athletes across this great country who have chosen to stand up and confront injustice in our society, that there are members of the U.S. congress who have your back."
He mentioned in particular Curry, James, and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, whose team did not come out onto the field for the national anthem during this Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.
"You stand on the shoulders of giants like Joe Lewis, Wilma Rudolph, Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Mohammad Ali, and so many others who throughout the annals of time chose to confront injustice in America to make us a better place," he said. "And now, you've taken the baton and thankfully, you're doing the same exact thing. We should be grateful. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America."
Several Christian athletes have weighed in on the incident, including Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson and Brooklyn Nets player Jeremy Lin.
"It's great for everyone to take a stand," Lin told the New York Post. "Obviously the invite was rescinded, which is a tough situation to be in. But looking at Steph and the Warriors, I don't think they could've done anything differently. A lot of what Steph described, I feel as well."
He added, "I'm not big into politics, but right now, I really am in terms of learning and trying to figure out how do I use my platform and my voice to take a stand. Because at the end of the day, we see a lot of injustice still, and things aren't the way we thought they should be in America, or aren't the way they wish they could be."