OK. Now. Please first read this before freaking out:
"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. "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.''
Noah received permission from Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek to skip the team function. He was the only member of the team not in attendance. Noah said his decision to skip the dinner and speech was not intended as a form of protest.
"It's not my way of saying anything—I was not comfortable,'' Noah said.
Go ahead and read it again, please, and then we will get to context. Thanks.
OK, good. Now, Joakim Noah is up in West Point where the Knicks are holding training camp and while he didn't miss any practices and stage any protests that took away from the events, he skipped out on dinner in the army mess hall, and did not attend a speech given by a retired colonel. He's got a problem with war and has been a longtime voice against gun violence—he spent nine years in Chicago surrounded by it and even made a documentary on the subject. Noah says he feels uncomfortable about being around the United States war machine, and asked his coach if he could skip out on these two events. His coach was cool with it.
He didn't disparage the military or the United States and he went out of his way to say he respected the cadets and was not trying to make a statement about anything. He simply said he was not comfortable being there in part because he doesn't understand war. Which is not at all a crazy or controversial thing to say, really. Frankly, saying you fully understood why different countries and cultures voluntarily tried to murder each other is entirely more controversial than anything Noah said.
OK, so now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can go back to not overreacting and completely and willfully misunderstanding something an athlete said or did. Which is good.