Gregg Popovich Talks Racial Injustice on Anniversary of Michael Brown's Death

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2020

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb.10, 2020, in Denver. The Nuggets won 127-120. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reflected on the death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

Speaking with reporters Sunday, Popovich noted it was the six-year anniversary of Brown's killing and put it into the context of the ongoing calls for reforms addressing police brutality and systemic racism, per Tom Petrini of KENS 5:

"This was a young man who had just graduated from high school about a week earlier, I think. There was some sort of an altercation that everybody has not agreed upon yet. But the fact that is agreed upon is this is a young man with his hands in the air, running away from the officer, running away, and receives six shots in the back that killed him.

"And it's just another example of an overall culture, not every policeman, so don't take it out of context, but an overall culture that sort of presumes guilt, or feels danger because it's a young black man.

"And this particular officer even said that that he was in fear of his life. Now, I can't imagine being in fear of my life if somebody is running away from me with their hands up. [...]

"To this day, you can count the many more that have happened. And so that's one of the reasons why the coaches, the owners, the players especially, the staff, everybody here wants to make sure that we sound this out constantly to make sure the momentum does not go away."

A St. Louis County grand jury declined to further a criminal case against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown. St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell confirmed in July he wouldn't pursue charges after re-examining the evidence.

The phrase "Hands up, don't shoot" became synonymous with Brown's killing, and activists have continued to use it in subsequent years. However, the Washington Post's Michelle Ye Hee Lee wrote in March 2015 that "the grand jury could not confirm the 'Hands up, don’t shoot' narrative the way it was told after the shooting."

In the wake of Brown's killing, the Justice Department investigated the Ferguson Police Department and found it "was routinely violating the constitutional rights of its black residents," per the New York TimesMatt Apuzzo.

Based on the Justice Department's findings, Apuzzo wrote that Ferguson police "used force almost exclusively on blacks and regularly stopped people without probable cause."

Popovich alluded to how Brown's killing underscored an issue that was prevalent before and after his death. Most recently, Americans across the country began demonstrating after the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Taylor's family filed a wrongful death suit against police in Louisville, Kentucky, after she was shot and killed by officers in her apartment in March. Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis in May. One officer, Derek Chauvin, was shown on video kneeling on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes.

Players and coaches throughout the NBA and WNBA have used the resumption of live games in Florida to continue drawing attention to social causes. 


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