Gregg Popovich: USA Is 'Embarrassment' Amid Donald Trump Anthem Controversy

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2017

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 22:  Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks to the media during a press conference after Game Four of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors during the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 22, 2017 AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mark Sobhani/Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who has been critical of President Donald Trump in the past, offered his harshest criticism yet of Trump and the current state of the United States during the team's media day Monday. 

He spoke about the recent entanglement of politics and sports, per Melissa Rohlin of the San Antonio Express-News:

Melissa Rohlin @melissarohlin

Pop: “Each 1 of them has the right and ability to say what they’d like to say and act the way they like to act. They have our full support”

Melissa Rohlin @melissarohlin

Pop referred to “childishness” and “gratuitous fear-mongering” when asked about sports and politics.

He spoke about the enabling of racism and racist behavior in the country:

Melissa Rohlin @melissarohlin

Pop: “I think these ppl have been enabled by an example we’ve been given, you’ve seen it in Charlottesville.”

"Our country is an embarrassment to the world," he added, per Rohlin.

He touched on Trump's decision to rescind a White House invitation to the Golden State Warriors, per Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Jabari Young @JabariJYoung

Popovich on #Warriors White House visit being rescinded #Spurs #NBA https://t.co/aY3KyV3uJL

And he spoke about white privilege, per Michael Lee of The Vertical: 

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

Pop dropping knowledge (via @mikecwright) https://t.co/aesHgNUFsD

"Obviously, race is the elephant in the room, and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly, it's not going to get better. ... 'Oh, that again. They pulled the race card again. Why do we have to talk about that?' Well, because it's uncomfortable. There has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change, whether it's the LGBT community or women's suffrage, race, 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. And if you read some of the recent literature, you realize there really is no such thing as whiteness. We kind of made it up. That's not my original thought, but it's true.

"It's hard to sit down and decide that, yes, it's like you're 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. It can't be something that is on their plate on a daily basis. People want to hold their position, people want the status quo, people don't want to give that up. Until it's given up, it's not going to be fixed."

Popovich's comments came on the heels of Trump taking aim at both the Warriors and NFL players this weekend. The president said any players who knelt during the national anthem should be sent off the field or even lose their jobs, calling them "sons of b---hes."

Following Colin Kaepernick's lead, several NFL players had been kneeling or raising a fist during the anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. On Sunday, a huge swath of players kneeled, locked arms or didn't appear on the field during the anthem in protest of Trump's remarks and in solidarity with those players who had chosen to protest previously.

Those opposed to that particular form of protest have claimed it disrespects the military or the flag.

But Popovich, who served in the Air Force in the 1970s and defended his own players' rights to protest or speak out as they see fit, clearly does not agree with that interpretation. 


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