DeMar DeRozan Says People Shouldn't 'Vilify' Popovich, Hammon for Not Kneeling

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 1, 2020

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, fourth from left, stands while wearing a mask while Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton, center, kneels with players before an NBA basketball game Friday, July 31, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
Kim Klement/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan defended head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant Becky Hammon for not kneeling during the national anthem prior to Friday's game against the Sacramento Kings

Speaking to reporters after the Spurs' 129-120 win, DeRozan said people shouldn't "vilify" Popovich or Hammon for their decision to stand:

"With Pop and Becky standing, I have no thoughts [contrary to] belief in them that is all out of genuine, out of a positive side of their heart. Same way we kneel. Don't take away nothing from those guys.

"You know Pop speaks out. When it comes to Becky, she's been [on the] front line, fighting for equality since I've been a fan of hers playing in the WNBA. So everybody has their own right of making a statement and you can't vilify nobody for not doing what the other group is doing. I'm all for it."'

Through the first two days of the NBA restart, a majority of players and coaches have taken a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter cause and to protest police brutality. 

Popovich was asked about standing during the anthem after the game. 

"I prefer to keep that to myself," the Spurs coach told reporters. "Everybody has to make a personal decision. The league has been great about that. Everybody has the freedom to react any way that they want. For whatever reasons that I have, I reacted the way I wanted to."

Every coach and player for the Spurs and Kings, including Popovich and Hammon, wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt before the game. 

Popovich has been an advocate for social justice throughout his coaching career. The three-time NBA Coach of the Year spoke about fighting for racial justice during a pregame press conference:

“With the events that we’ve all witnessed in this last year, it’s just logical and wise to try to keep that momentum, going and try to keep this on the front burner. Because it’s a national embarrassment. It keeps us from being the country we should be and the country that was promised to everyone. Nothing could be more poignant than to have all of the teams here all committed to making statements and letting it be known that this has got to change. And not just a little bit.”

NBA players have used its season restart to continue speaking out about racial injustice and the need for systemic change. A number of players have worn social justice messages on the back of their jerseys. 

The Spurs will play their second game on the NBA campus Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies at 4 p.m. ET.