WEST POINT, N.Y. — Joakim Noah decided to skip Thursday night’s Knicks team dinner with Army cadets because he is anti-war, and said he has mixed feelings about spending this week at the United States Military Academy for training camp.
Noah, the new Knicks center, was the only player not to attend the dinner, where a retired colonel spoke to the group about team-building.
“It’s hard for me a little bit,” Noah said yesterday afternoon. “I have a lot of respect for the kids who are out here fighting. But it’s hard for me to understand why we have to go to war, why kids have to kill kids around the world. So I have mixed feelings about being here.
“I’m very proud of this country. I love America, but I just don’t understand kids killing kids around the world.”
This is the third straight year the Knicks have held training camp at West Point. One of the highlights for the players and coaches has been the dinner with cadets and the speeches.
Noah said he wasn’t taking a stand but just didn’t feel comfortable being there. He has dual citizenship, French and American. Noah has played for the French national team but said he wasn’t comfortable doing that.
“I’m not a very patriotic person, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t understand the whole flags, supporting flags. I’m more into supporting people.”
Noah arrived at West Point on Tuesday night. He said that as of yesterday afternoon, he hadn’t spoken to any of the cadets on campus to express his opinions. But last night the Knicks tweeted pictures of Noah meeting and talking to cadets.
“I haven’t,” Noah said earlier in the day. “I have before. I actually really like hearing what they say. It’s usually very sad.
“At the end of the day, I’m not anti-troops. It’s just not comfortable for me to see kids going out to war and coming back having seen what they’ve seen, having done what they’ve done. It’s sad for me. It’s sad for me because they’re just sent out for things that, I don’t really want to get into it, to be honest with you. It’s hard for me.”
The USMA issued a statement and expressed its disappointment in Noah’s stance.
“The U.S. Military Academy at West Point develops leaders of character for the defense of our Nation,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker said. “We are disappointed and feel Mr. Noah’s choice of West Point to make a statement is inappropriate because of the great sacrifice that has originated from this institution over our Nation’s history.”
Noah informed Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek that he would not be attending the dinner. Hornacek said he “absolutely” understood.
“Well, that’s his right,” he said. “He wants to be a part of the team and do everything the team is doing. He just didn’t feel comfortable. We’re not going to pressure him into doing that. We had the speaker, who I thought was fantastic. I told him, maybe we can get a little copy, if there’s a copy of the speech, just so he can hear some of it. That’s his right.
“In all his stuff that he does against gun violence and all that, he just didn’t feel comfortable, so that’s plenty fine with us.”
Noah has a foundation called Noah’s Arc. Its mission is for kids “to become more aware and conscious of their ability to make a positive impact.”
One key aspect of the foundation is the “Drop of Consciousness Movement.” It asks people to spread the message of positivity and non-violence by wearing a teardrop-shape pendant. The pendant symbolizes the pain of losing someone while also recognizing strength and commitment to positive change.
Noah plans to take a stand on social issues, but it didn’t sound as if he will kneel for the national anthem.
“There’s a lot of topics that definitely need to be more than addressed,” he said. “I think it’s a very important time right now. It’s very important. It’s great that athletes are taking a stand. But it has to be about more than that. Violence in this country is out of control, kids killing kids. To me personally, people are talking about the anthem, but it’s besides the point. The point is this thing has got to be fixed.
“There has to be more investment in the communities. These after-school programs are very important. There has to be more [gun control laws]. Kids are getting access to automatic weapons. This is not normal. It’s not normal, and I know as soon as you talk about guns, people start looking at you crazy and stuff. But to me, when you see the amount of school shootings and the accessibility of guns around the country and I see nothing being done about it, I really question our leadership.”