The New York Knicks are spending training camp at West Point and had dinner with cadets on Thursday night. But one big absence at the table was Joakim Noah, who decided to skip the event due to his anti-war views.
“It’s hard for me a little bit — I have a lot of respect for the kids here fighting — but it’s hard for me to understand why we go to war and why kids have to kill kids all around the world,’’ Noah said, according to the New York Post. “I have mixed feeling about being here. I’m very proud of this country. I love America. I don’t understand kids killing kids around the world.’’
Despite his decision, Noah made sure to clarify that he has nothing against cadets or the men and women who serve in the military. He's anti-war, not anti-troops.
"He has the utmost respect for the military members and cadets," a representative for Noah tole TMZ. "He just doesn't agree with war."
The Knicks have held training camp at West Point since Phil Jackson took over as president of basketball operations in 2014. Head coach Jeff Hornacek said he respected his center's decision.
“That’s his right," Hornacek told the New York Daily News. "He wants to be a part of the team group and do everything the team is doing. He just didn’t feel comfortable,. We’re not going to pressure him into doing that.”
Noah refused to call his decision a stand or a protest. He said that he does believe that athletes should have their voices heard, but he believes more is required to affect change.
“I think it’s great athletes are taking a stand," Noah said, according to the New York Daily News. "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."
Noah's anti-war views are not new. As a member of the Florida Gators team that won the 2007 NCAA title, he was reluctant to meet President George W. Bush at the White House because he disagreed with the Iraq War, according to a New York Times profile. He ended up going, but kept his shirt untucked.
Noah has a charity in Chicago that's partially dedicated to fight gun violence and has discussed the issue at length in the past.
"It hurts me to know the state for so many kids of this city I've grown to love," Noah told the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson. "I'm very proud of the work that we do. But the truth is it's not normal what's going on in Chicago. The violence is like a plague. The more we got involved, the heavier it got for me. It's very painful. So it's very important to keep doing our part. It's a small part. But we have to do what we can."