Pro sports teams have stopped stay­ing at Trump ho­tels

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Tim Bontemps and David A. Fahrenthold WASH­ING­TON POST

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.

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