Donald Trump's travel ban: Will American World Cup and Olympic bids suffer?

By Richard ConwayBBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent
Steve Kerr
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr led the Golden State Warriors to the 2016 NBA Finals

Steve Kerr, head coach of the NBA's Golden State Warriors, knows the pain that terrorism can cause.

His father Malcolm was murdered in Beirut on the morning of 18 January 1986 by two members of the terror group Islamic Jihad.

At the time, Kerr was a first-year student at the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship. He was starting out on a path that would lead eventually to NBA championship glory as a player with the Chicago Bulls and then as coach of the Warriors.

What's striking is that in the years following the killing Kerr's response was not embittered or coloured with vengeance. Instead he has consistently called for greater peace and understanding in the world.

Stephen Curry and Steve Kerr
Kerr and record breaking star Stephen Curry - the Golden State Warriors won the 2015 NBA Finals

As a recent profile of him in the New York Timesexternal-link puts it: "He steps into discussions that most others in his position purposely avoid or know little about, chewing through the grey areas in a world that increasingly paints itself in bold contrasts."

Recent days have proved no different.

Kerr has emerged as a prominent voice of protest against US president Donald Trump's executive order which suspends the country's refugee programme for 120 days, puts an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees and prevents, for the time being at least, anyone arriving from seven Muslim-majority countries, with certain exceptions.

President Trump insistsexternal-link the order will buttress the United States' defence against terrorism and is not a ban against Muslims.

And while public protests have been large and vocal, polls showexternal-link a majority of Americans are in favour of the restrictions.

But Kerr disagrees, believing the order will be counterproductive.

"I would just say that as someone whose family member was a victim of terrorism, having lost my father, if we're trying to combat terrorism by banishing people from coming to this country, by really going against the principles of what our country is about and creating fear, it's the wrong way of going about it," he told reporters this week.

"Families are being torn apart, and I worry in the big picture what this means to the security of the world. It's going about it completely opposite. You want to solve terror, you want to solve crime, this is not the way to do it."

He is not alone.

Many figures within American sport have voiced their concerns in recent days.

Footballer Michael Bradley, captain of the US national team, felt compelled to write of Trump that "the Muslim ban is just the latest example of someone who couldn't be more out of touch with our country and the right way to move forward" while the former UFC champion Ronda Rousey has posted similar sentiments on her Instagram account.external-link

Tommie Smith's black power salute
Tommie Smith's black power salute became on of the most iconic images of the 20th Century

Tommie Smith's clenched fist "black power" salute at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and last year's decision by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick not to stand during the national anthem shows how political protest and American sport are often linked.

But the Trump immigration and refugee measures - and his presidential term through to January 2021 - may have wider implications for the future of American sport.

As a result, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and football's world governing body Fifa both face challenging decisions.

The first will come later this year when the IOC decides which city will host the 2024 Olympics.

Los Angeles and Paris are locked in a tight race, with the IOC's 98 members poised to cast their vote.

Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is one of the proposed venues for a 2024 LA Games

So far there has been no response to the Trump measures from the IOC, an organisation which makes a virtue of non-discrimination in its founding principles.

However, one IOC member, Richard Peterkin, provided a glimpse into how some delegates may feel when he tweeted: "Trump's executive order on immigration is totally contrary to Olympic ideals. For him, collective responsibility trumps individual justice."

LA's mayor, Eric Garcetti, was swift to condemn the Trump planexternal-link but it remains to be seen whether his damage-limitation exercise will help his city's bid.

On the other hand, money talks. And in global sport it often wins votes.

The size of the financial advantages offered by a US-based Games are significant. LA's organisers estimate they can generate a huge $4.8bn (£3.8bn) in revenue.

So with the ballot eight months away all is not lost for LA - after all, despite disquiet over human rights abuses, the IOC awarded China (Beijing 2008) and Russia (Sochi 2014) the summer and winter Games respectively.

There is one alternative which is starting to look increasingly politically expedient. Informal talks are believed to be under way which could result in the IOC awarding the 2024 Games to Paris and the 2028 Games to LA at the same time, providing a win for all concerned.

Fifa faces a similar issues with awarding its major event.

Bidding to host an expanded 48-team World Cup in 2026 will get under way in the near future.

The process will take three years and culminate, for the first time, in all 211 Fifa member nations having a say in which country, or countries, will win.

There will also be scrutiny of the human rights record of prospective hosts.

The US is currently the clear favourite to win, as European and Asian countries are blocked from bidding under a rotation policy.

Anti-Trump protesters
There have been widespread protests against Trump's new immigration policy

But let's cast forward to the eve of the 2026 vote.

In May 2020 the US presidential election campaign will be in full swing, with President Trump delivering speech after speech as he seeks a second term of office.

He will have been in power for close to four years, shaping and implementing policy.

How will Fifa's globally based voters respond if, by then, Syrians are still blocked from seeking refuge in the US? If citizens of several nations are officially not welcome in the US, even temporarily as fans?

When the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively the decisions were made by a small group of Fifa officials, most of whom are now discredited or banned from the game for various acts of misconduct.

The ballot for 2026 will involve a far larger and more ethnically, politically and religiously diverse group. Could it, theoretically, become a de facto referendum on the United States' standing in the world?

The mantra that sport and politics don't mix has perhaps never been less accurate - the Trump administration has probably just locked them together for the next four years.

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