Kobe Bryant's kept out of the shadows since retiring from his 20-year career as a Los Angeles Laker, expanding his horizons with his new life in front of him.
Much of his efforts have been focused on building up his media company, Kobe Inc. That's led to some fantastic collaborations with ESPN, as well as his own original short film that he debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. The basketball shoes may be hung up, but he's still laser-focused.
Bryant is a huge figure in sports, one of the most globally recognized athletes of all-time. His word carries significant weight, and his brand is something he's taken tremendous care of in the last decade. That's why his response about whether he'd visit the White House in today's climate was so fascinating.
Bryant took a measured approach to the question when asked, looking at a picture larger than paying a visit with the President of the United States. There's more to it than that, which makes it a tough decision for some athletes to make.
“I probably would go. That visit is more than how you feel about the current administration. It’s about the guys next to you, about the flag, about the kids out there who look up to you and the United States. But, honestly, it’s a tough call," Bryant told Ben Strauss of Politico.
Controversy surrounded the New England Patriots following their Super Bowl victory, with several members electing to skip the White House visit. Some admitted it was due to Donald Trump's presidency, while others simply didn't go for unrelated reasons.
American sports teams have made it a tradition to visit the White House following a championship. The Golden State Warriors or Cleveland Cavaliers are likely next up for a visit with the current administration, which will certainly be another chaotic news cycle.
Kobe brings up a point that is often overlooked in this conversation. The players are there to represent their country, their fans, their teammates and all sports. It's an opportunity for athletes to take the stage for something bigger than sports.
The camaraderie of sports is sacred, and splits that occur in events like the White House visit are unfortunate. Some will agree with Kobe's line of thinking, others will decline the invitation to send a message, others will attend to show support and a handful of players truly don't have any opinion and will either attend or not depending on their schedule.