Steve Kerr Pivots To Americans 'Mowing Each Other Down' When Asked About Human Rights Abuses in China

On Thursday night, Golden State Warriors head coach decided to move in a different direction when talking about the current issues between the NBA and China.

During his press conference on Thursday, a reporter asked Kerr if he has ever been asked about human rights during his previous trips to China. Instead of directly answering the question, Kerr compared the current issues in China to problems in the United States regarding gun violence.

"No. Nor has [America's] record of human rights abuses come up either... People in China didn't ask me about, you know, people owning AR-15s and mowing each other down in a mall," Kerr said.

The reporter's question alluded to the pro-democracy protests that have swept across Hong Kong is the past few months. The NBA became involved in the issue following a controversial tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Although quickly deleted, Morey's tweet, which read, "fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong," sparked severe backlash from China.

The tweet led to multiple apologies from Morey as well as Rockets star James Harden. However, the apologies did not prevent several Chinese partners with the NBA to suspend their business agreements.

Kerr, who has been vocal regarding social issues in the past, surprised many when he declined to comment about the situation during a Monday press conference.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic asked Kerr if he had any comments or thoughts on Morey's tweet. "Actually I don't; it's a really bizarre international story," Kerr said. "It's something I'm reading about, but I'm not going to comment further than that."

Kerr's initial response on Monday prompted President Donald Trump to criticize the basketball coach to the media on Wednesday. When asked by a report about his thoughts on the ongoing controversy between the NBA and China, Trump referred to Kerr as a "little boy."

"I watched this guy Steve Kerr and he was like a little boy who was so scared to be even answering the question. He couldn't answer the question. He was shaking, 'Oh, I don't know.' He didn't know how to answer the question, and yet he'll talk about the United States very badly," Trump said.

The president also referenced San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who also declined to comment about the NBA and China earlier this week.

"I watched Popovich, sort of the same thing, but he didn't look quite as scared actually. But they talk badly about the United States, but when we talk about China, they don't want to say anything bad. I thought it was pretty sad, actually," he said, before going on to discuss the league as a whole.

"I watch the way that Kerr, Popovich, and some of the others were pandering to China and yet to our own country, they don't - it's like they don't respect it," Trump added.

When asked about Trump's comments on Thursday, Kerr dismissed the president's criticism, saying he is "the shiny object" for Trump to talk about.

Following Kerr's comments on Monday, many took to social media to express their disappointment towards the coach who has used his platform in the past to shine light on social issues such as gun reform.

"This is extreme disappointing from Steve Kerr, who speaks out on a number of important issues. You don't need to be an expert in Hong Kong to support free speech and oppose government-coerced censorship," wrote writer Judd Legum.

Kerr's comments on Thursday, comparing the Hong Kong protests gun violence in the US, have also received its fair share of backlash.

During the press conference, Kerr also spoke about how the NBA or the Warriors organization has not told them to avoid commenting on the China issue. "No, nobody has said anything to us, from the league or from the [Warriors] organization about whether we can comment or not," Kerr said.

"Steve Kerr is a coward," wrote Daily Wire writer Amanda Prestigiacomo.

"Communist China violates human rights, puts 1 million Uyghurs in camps because of their religious beliefs and is cracking down on Hong Kong's fight for the autonomy they were promised. America is a force for freedom and human rights around the world. Try again @SteveKerr," tweeted Republican Senator Rick Scott.

During Thursday's press conference, Kerr explained that his personal policy is to not comment on matters he doesn't understand, which would include the issues with the league and China.

However, the coach said he is "very comfortable talking about what's going on in our country."

"I'm a citizen of our country. It's hard for me to make comments on something that impacts so many people, different countries, different governments. Not really feeling comfortable being in the midst of it, I think it makes more sense to lay low," Kerr said, though he later added that his comments on gun safety are because the topic is "near and dear" to him.

"So I'm going to comment on it. It's my right," Kerr said. "That's why I love being an American and love my country. I'm able to channel my energy and resources to places where I want it to go. I feel really comfortable with that."

Throughout the past week, tensions have continued to grow between the NBA and China with multiple fans being disciplined for supporting the Hong Kong protests. One fan was removed from a Philadelphia 76ers game for holding up signs that said "Free Hong Kong" while similar signs and shirts were confiscated prior to the Washington Wizards game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association.

Steve Kerr
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr compares Hong Kong protests to gun violence in US Lachlan Cunningham/Getty