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The Knicks are holding their training camp at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point this fall just like they’ve done over the course of the last few years. And on Thursday night, they took some time out of their busy basketball schedule to meet with West Point cadets during a team dinner and to hear several speeches delivered by some of the military officials in attendance. The entire Knicks team was at the event with the exception of one of the team’s newest players: Joakim Noah.
Noah has actually missed several recent team commitments due to the birth of his daughter, but that’s not why he decided to skip the latest one. On Friday afternoon, reporters asked him why he chose not to attend the dinner at West Point and he said that it’s because he hates war. He also said that being at the U.S. Military Academy makes him feel uncomfortable as a result of his anti-war sentiments:
"I wasn’t there to be honest with you," he said, according to the New York Daily News. "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. 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."
Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek also spoke with reporters about the dinner and said that he was fine with Noah skipping it. "That’s his right," Hornacek said. "He wants to be a part of the team group and do everything the team is doing. He just didn’t feel comfortable. We’re not going to pressure him into doing that. We had the speaker [an ex-colonel] who I thought was fantastic. I told him, maybe we can get a little copy, if there’s a copy of the speech, just so he can hear some of it. That’s his right."
Noah said this isn’t the first time he’s skipped an event tied to the military, though he emphasized that he does not want people to think he has anything against those who serve the country. "I’m not anti-troops," he said. "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."
A rep for Noah later told TMZ Sports that Noah "has the utmost respect for the military members and cadets" but that he "just doesn’t agree with war."
You can watch highlights from the Knicks’ team dinner with the West Point cadets here: