Gregg Popovich: Spurs coach calls U.S. 'embarrassment to the world,' talks white privilege

By Alex Butler  |  Sept. 25, 2017 at 9:23 PM
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Sept. 25 (UPI) -- San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gave thoughtful answers Monday at media day while discussing President Donald Trump's recent comments about the NFL.

Trump spoke on Friday at a rally in Alabama, saying NFL owners should fire players who kneel before games during the national anthem. Trump also called those players "sons of [expletives]" during his remarks.

The NFL responded Sunday and Monday night with series of peaceful protests and displays of team unity, as players, coaches and team owners from around the league linked arms in solidarity before the Week 3 slate of games.

Popovich told reporters that Spurs players have his "full support" to use their "right and ability to say what they'd like to say and act the way they like to act."

He offered several more lengthy responses, including one about white privilege.

"Obviously, race is the elephant in the room, and we all understand that, but unless it is talked about constantly, it is not going to get better," Popovich told reporters. "People get bored. 'Oh, is it that again. He's pulling the race card again. Why do we have to talk about that?'"

"Well, because it's uncomfortable and there has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change. Whether it's the LGBT movement or women's suffrage, it doesn't matter. People have to be made to feel uncomfortable, and especially white people, because we're comfortable. We still have no clue of what being born white means...It's hard to sit down and decide, yes, it's like you are at the 50-meter mark in a 100-meter dash. You've got that kind of a lead. Yes, because you were born white, you have advantages that are systemically, culturally, psychologically, there, and they have been built up and cemented for hundreds of years. but many people can't look at it. It's too difficult... People want to hold their position. They want the status quo. People don't want to give that up. And until it is given up, it's not going to be fixed."

He called President Trump's rescinding of the Golden State Warriors' invitation to the White House "comical," because Warriors star Stephen Curry had already said he was not going to go. He also likened Trump to a sixth-grader.

"Our country is an embarrassment to the world," Popovich told the Express-News.

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (R) as he honors the 2014 NBA Champion Spurs in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. File photo by Pat Benic/UPI

Popovich served in the Air Force. He also responded Monday to the President's endorsement of NASCAR team owners who recently threatened to fire their drivers if they decide to protest during the national anthem.

"I just heard a comment this morning from a NASCAR owner and from Mr. Petty that just blew me away," Popovich told reporters. "Mr. Petty said people that act the way we saw on Sunday should leave the country. I had no idea I live in a country where people would actually say that sort of thing. Our country is an embarrassment to the world."

The Spurs face the Sacramento Kings at 9 p.m. on Oct. 2 at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento in a preseason matchup. San Antonio tips off its regular season slate at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 18 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.

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