French star Joakim Noah opted to skip a New York Knicks training camp dinner held with US Army cadets at the West Point military academy, saying it clashed with his pacifist beliefs, reports said Friday.
Noah, who joined the Knicks this summer, said he felt uncomfortable about attending the dinner held on Thursday at West Point where the NBA team is holding its pre-season training camp.
The 31-year-old star, who has both US and French citizenship, also did not attend a speech given by a retired Army Colonel, the New York Daily News said.
“It’s hard for me a little bit. 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,” Noah told the paper.
“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.”
Noah stressed he was not making an anti-military statement.
“I’m not anti-troops. It’s just not comfortable for me to see kids going to war and coming back having seen what they’ve seen and done what they’ve done. It’s sad for me. They’re just sent out for things that are – I don’t really want to get into it, to be honest with you. It’s just hard for me.”
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said Noah had been granted permission to miss the dinner.
“That’s his right. He wants to be a part of the team group and do everything the team is doing. He just didn’t feel comfortable,” Hornacek said.
“We’re not going to pressure him into doing that.”
Noah, the son of French tennis great Yannick, said he was similarly unenthused by demonstrations of nationalistic pride in sport.
“I’m not a very patriotic person, to be honest,” Noah said.
“I don’t understand the whole flags, supporting flags. I’m more into supporting people.”