Black Power: LeBron’s refusal to stay at Trump SoHo helped start exodus of high-end guests
The holding company for all the business ventures of President Donald J. Trump announced on Wednesday that it had reached a deal to “exit” the faltering 46-story luxury hotel it has operated in lower Manhattan since 2010. The deal will allow the company that owns the skyscraper property, CIM Group, to rebrand it; the Trump SoHo will soon have another name, possibly by the end of next month.
Sarah Maslin Nir of the New York Times reported Friday that the Trump SoHo faced problems over the course of Trump’s presidential campaign that mounted since his election last year, losing more and more revenue and guests “with each controversy involving the White House.” A hotel staffer reportedly identified one former guest, in particular, whose exit seems to have kickstarted the exodus and precipitated the Trump SoHo’s failure: Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James.
From the Times:
[…] the glitter masked a challenging reality, according to a longtime member of the staff who asked not to be named because employees had signed a nondisclosure agreement. After LeBron James publicly refused to stay at the hotel last year, the corporate clients and 20 or so sports teams that had been regular guests almost entirely disappeared, the staff member said. Porters whose base salaries were once buoyed by up to $60,000 a year in gratuities have earned half as much in tips.
ESPN reported last November, shortly after Trump’s election, that at least three NBA teams — the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies — had stopped staying at Trump-affiliated hotels during road trips to New York and Chicago, “in part to avoid any implied association with the new president-elect.” Bucks forward Jabari
Parker ranked among the most vocal supporters of the decision to find alternative accommodations, saying of the choice, “You don’t want to endorse hate; you don’t want to endorse racism,” and “I’m really proud we won’t be staying there because I couldn’t be comfortable being around him and his businesses.”
Things jumped up several notches a few weeks later when James and several of his teammates were “excused from staying” at the Trump SoHo during a December road trip to take on the New York Knicks. James — who had endorsed and stumped for Trump’s opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election — later insisted that he and his teammates were making no specific statement by declining to stay at the hotel. “It would be the same if I went to a restaurant and decided to eat chicken and not steak,” he said at the time. James has since been more direct in his criticisms of the president. Trump, for his part, has continued to carry on public disputes with NFL and NBA athletes.
The Washington Post reported last month that 16 of the 17 NBA teams that had previously stayed at Trump hotels had stopped staying in those properties. (The New Orleans Pelicans declined comment.) According to the Post’s Tim Bontemps and David Farenthold, 72 of 106 teams across the four major U.S. professional sports reached for comment “said they had not stayed at Trump properties in recent years,” a trend that “sapped his hotels of revenue and big league buzz.”
“The president has seemingly made a point of dividing us as best he can,” Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told the Post. “He continually offends people, and so people don’t want to stay at his hotel. It’s pretty simple.”