WEST POINT, N.Y. — Joakim Noah enjoyed meeting with and talking to the Army cadets Friday night, but it didn’t change his feelings toward war nor make him regret not attending the Knicks’ team dinner with them Thursday.
“I have a lot of respect for the troops and the sacrifice that they bring for this country,” Noah said. “It’s just hard for me to see kids killing kids. It’s my views. But it was cool just to be able to spend a little time with them, talk to them and just — they have a huge responsibility — to be able to talk to them about that.”
Born and raised in New York, Noah, who has dual citizenship in America and France, said he was in the city during the Sept. 11 attacks and always has been “against war.”
Noah, who said he “just didn’t feel comfortable” taking part in the dinner because he’s a pacifist, said he understood the United States Military Academy’s statement on Friday that it was “disappointed” in him because of the “great sacrifice that has originated from this institution.”
“I understand where they’re coming from,” Noah said. “They opened up their home to us for us to have a camp. It was actually a great opportunity for us to bond as a team and it all came from a good place. So I understand where they’re coming from. I don’t mean no disrespect It’s just I didn’t feel comfortable in that environment.”
This was the third consecutive year that the Knicks have held training camp at West Point.
Coach Jeff Hornacek said the Knicks were fine with Noah’s choice. Noah said team president Phil Jackson told him the same.
“Phil just told me just stay focused on basketball,” Noah said. “That’s what I was brought here to do. But also stand for what you believe in.”
Knicks players, including rookie center Marshall Plumlee, who is in the Army reserve, said they supported Noah.
“I respect everyone’s beliefs,” Plumlee said. “They may not necessarily be my own. But that doesn’t give me the right to dismiss them or anything like that. I support him just as he supports me. I hold Joakim Noah in very high regard and I’m really grateful to have him as a teammate.”
Noah’s longtime teammate Derrick Rose said he hoped people didn’t have a bad image of Noah now.
“His heart, and how careful he is and how thoughtful he is about people, I just don’t want people to paint an image of him who he’s not,” Rose said. “He’s a caring guy, a loving guy, and the last thing he wants is the attention that’s coming to him from everywhere about him about anti. And that’s something he’s not.”
Carmelo Anthony has been outspoken about gun violence and police brutality, which is something more and more athletes have become. Anthony said he’s fine with Noah standing up for his beliefs.
“We’re supposed to play basketball and shut up, or play football and shut up,” Anthony said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do. If we were just to sit there and play basketball and keep our mouths shut then we’d be cool. We’ll get flak about that, too. We’re kind of in a lose-lose situation. I’d rather go with our gut and what we really believe in. All athletes are human beings and they have their own beliefs.
“For him to take the stance that he took and really say it publicly and really mean it and really feel it, then he’d have to really believe in that. That’s a big step for him to take. He must really feel the way that he feels and believes the way he believes.
Noah said he wasn’t trying to take a stand or disrespect anyone.
“Flags, patriotism and all that. I’m not really into that I come from a lot of different places,” Noah said. “I don’t feel like one country is better than another one or that I’m ready to die for a flag or a country. I’m not like that. I’ve never really understood patriotism but at the end of the day, I understand.”