After personally handing out meals and more to folks in need, Stephen Curry sat in the conference room of an Oakland church and opened a window into his sociopolitical thinking.
Asked about the risks of speaking out on such sensitive matters, Curry explained that he realized his status had given him the privilege of a platform that he feels obligated to use. Any decisions about speaking out, he said, would be guided by his principles.
“Sometimes,” he said, “it’s worse when you don’t say something.”
That was more than three years ago, and Curry’s star was just beginning to rise. He has since won two MVP awards, led the Warriors to their first NBA Championship in 40 years and become an international celebrity.
He also happens to be the most effective star in the marketing stable of the growing athletic footwear and apparel company Under Armour.
Which brings us to Wednesday, when Curry waded into the waters related to President Donald Trump.
Commenting on a statement made by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, who in an exclusive interview with CNBC’s Scott Wapner, referred to Trump as pro-business and, therefore, “a real asset for the country.”
Curry, in an interview with Bay Area News Group columnist Marcus Thompson II, had a reaction that could not have pleased Plank.
“I agree with that description,” Curry said, “if you remove the ‘et’ “ from the word asset.
This is the strongest statement Curry has made on any matter, at any time during a career now in its eighth season. He is under contract to Under Armour until 2024. Moreover, he has an ownership stake.
Yet he spoke out, and in very unambiguous terms that clashed with the CEO of the company he represents. And Curry is smart enough to know his explicit critique of the president may alienate potential buyers of shoes and clothing attached to his name.
This is big.
This is Curry taking his clout to the highest level yet -- even if it jeopardizes his relationship with Under Armour.
“If there is a situation where I can look at myself in the mirror and say they don’t have my best intentions, they don’t have the right attitude about taking care of people,” Curry said. “If I can say the leadership is not in line with my core values, then there is no amount of money, there is no platform I wouldn’t jump off if it wasn’t in line with who I am.
“So that’s a decision I will make every single day when I wake up. If something is not in line with what I’m about, then, yeah, I definitely need to take a stance in that respect.”
Curry said he spent much of Tuesday in dialogue with representatives of Under Armour, as well as his own representatives. He was seeking more information, in hopes of gaining clarification.
Though he obviously feels uneasy about the company, he has not decided to sever the business relationship. Not yet.
But it’s on his mind. Does he want to be associated with a company in which the CEO openly expressed a fondness for the polarizing new president?
“It’s a fine line but it’s about how we’re operating,” Curry said, “how inclusive we are, what we stand for. He’s the President. There are going to be people that are tied to them. But are we promoting change? Are we doing things that are going to look out for everybody? And not being so self-serving that it’s only about making money, selling shoes, doing this and that. That’s not the priority. It’s about changing lives. I think we can continue to do that.”
In other words, if Under Armour mimics Trump’s isolationist policies and open disrespect of others, Curry is ready to walk.
Curry, 28, has never used a megaphone to express himself, and don’t expect that to happen now. He’s a Christian who rarely directly talks religion. He routinely donates to charities and community groups, and not always publicly. He’s not one to talk his way into the spotlight.
But he’s not going to shrink. Not now. Not on the dawn of what clearly is becoming a new age of activism for athletes.