Pro sports teams have stopped staying at Trump hotels
WASHINGTON – Until recently, the Trump SoHo hotel served as a kind of luxe clubhouse for NBA teams visiting New York.
At least 12 teams – more than a third of the league – had stayed there since it opened in 2010. The players loved it so much they became walking ads for the Trump brand: Superstar Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder praised the hotel in the press. Toronto Raptors all-star Kyle Lowry gave interviews on the lobby’s couch. Then-Thunder forward Steve Novak tweeted about the $20 room-service lattes. Now, it’s not the same. All but one of the 12 teams said they have stopped patronizing the Trump SoHo since Donald Trump launched his presidential bid in 2015, according to team officials. Among the latest todepartweretheRaptors,Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards, who all dropped Trump SoHo this summer and made different arrangements for the coming season.
Another NBA team quit staying at Trump’s hotel in downtown Chicago. And at least three National Hockey League teams and one Major League Baseball club have stopped frequenting Trump hotels in the same time, according to interviews with team officials.
Before Trump turned professional athletes into his political targets in recent weeks – jousting on Twitter with the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and blasting football players for kneeling during the national anthem – he had been privately losing their teams’ business. The trend has sapped his hotels of revenue and big-league buzz, a survey of teams by the Washington Post found.
In all, the Post found that 17 teams from across the four major sports had stayed at Trump properties in recent years. Now, at least 16 are no longer customers.
“The president has seemingly made a point of dividing us as best he can,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told the Post in an interview this week, explaining the shift. His team quit using Trump SoHo in 2016. “He continually offends people, and so people don’t want to stay at his hotel. It’s pretty simple.”
The Post reached out to all 123 teams in the four major U.S. sports leagues to find out how many are still Trump customers. A total of 105 responded. Not a single team confirmed its players stay at Trump properties.
Some of the teams that have left Trump hotels cited reasons outside politics. One, for instance, said it was difficult to get team buses in and out of Lower Manhattan.
The loss of pro sports clients at Trump’s hotels is part of a larger trend at his businesses, which appear to be pulled in opposite directions by his polarizing presidency.
At properties that offer proximity to the president – such as his Washington hotel and the Mar-a-Lago Club where he stays in Florida – business seems to be strong.
But the Trump Organization has had customers bleed away from other locations, particularly those who eschew political controversy. His golf clubs in California and New York have lost charity tournaments. His courses in Scotland just reported that their losses doubled in 2016.
The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for the investment fund that owns Trump SoHo referred questions to Trump Organization officials.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed the idea that Trump’s attacks on sports teams were connected to the loss of pro athletes as customers.
“The president has repeatedly said he doesn’t care about his business, he cares about the country,” Sanders wrote in an email. “The president’s position on athletes standing for the National Anthem is about respecting the flag and the men and women of the military who sacrifice to defend it and nothing else.”
Trump has given up leadership positions at his businesses. But he still owns them through a trust controlled by his eldest sons. That means he still can take profits from properties such as the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, which his company owns, and Trump SoHo, from which he draws fees. Trump’s business receives 5.75 percent of that hotel’s operating revenue, according to company documents posted online by Reuters.
Before Trump ran for office, the Post found, at least three of the four major U.S. sports provided his properties with regular business. The exception was football: The Post could not identify any National Football League teams that stayed at Trump hotels.
But NBA patronage of Trump hotels began to change in June 2015, when Trump entered the White House race as a hard-right figure, stoking suspicions about immigrants and resentment of coastal elites.
Soon after, he began to lose some customers from the league, whose ranks of players are three-quarters black and include many who have been outspoken about issues such as law enforcement’s treatment of African Americans.