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Gregg Popovich Has Always Led His Peers in Addressing American Racism

The Spurs Coach has been a rider for equality in America for years now as an NBA head coach.

Gregg Popovich has been a rider for equality in America for years now as an NBA head coach. While most of the owners and head coaches in the NBA remain silent on the protests that have rocked America and company’s such as Wendy’s continue to disrespectfully throw money into Trump’s re-election, Popovich spoke to The Nation’s Dave Zirin on Sunday, and he let loose as he’s been known to do in the past.

He began by addressing racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd and how things continue to stay the same.

“The thing that strikes me is that we all see this police violence and racism and we’ve seen it all before but nothing changes. That’s why these protests have been so explosive. But without leadership and an understanding of what the problem is, there will never be change. And white Americans have avoided reckoning with this problem forever because it’s been our privilege to be able to avoid it. That also has to change.”

Then he moved on to leadership and another memorable dressing down of President Trump.

“It’s unbelievable. If Trump had a brain, even if it was 99 percent cynical, he would come out and say something to unify people. But he doesn’t care about bringing people together. Even now. That’s how deranged he is. It’s all about him. It’s all about what benefits him personally. It’s never about the greater good. And that’s all he’s ever been.”

It’s not the first time Pop, popped off on Trump.

Though he’s an NBA champion and a surefire Hall of Fame coach, there are those who would act in some manner to curtail his honesty if they could.  But it wasn’t that long ago when I was scratching my head when Popovich once stated that foreign players work harder than most American players. I was seriously questioning my allegiance to the franchise.

The reason being is because most foreign players these days are from European countries. So, in my reactionary state, my first inclination was to think that Pop was using some kind of dog whistle to show his appreciation for white players over black players.

Of course, that’s not what he was trying to say, but our feelings, which are inextricable from life’s bumps and bruises, aka trauma, often cause reactions to stimuli that are otherwise benign relative to the negative connotation that we place upon them.

But, since Gregg Popovich has been the leading voice among NBA head coaches against racial discrimination and calling out white nationalism, that initial reaction to an innocent statement made years ago has disintegrated. In its place stands a profound level of respect for a man who refuses to shut up, wince or mince words when confronting the evils of American society-at-large.

While speaking on The Ringer’s “Flying Coach” podcast with Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Seattle Seahawks HC Pete Carroll on Tuesday, Popovich said that he’s struggled to explain the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death to his own granddaughter.

“I was in a TV room the other day with my 8-year-old granddaughter and I was watching the news; she happened to walk in,” Popovich said. “And it was the exact time when they were replaying the policeman with his knee on George Floyd’s neck. And I didn’t realize she was there. And I turned for whatever reason, I saw her standing there and she was just staring and she said, ‘Poppy, why does that man have his knee on that man’s neck? What is he doing?’

“And I was dumbfounded. I turned [the TV] off. And then I thought, ‘Should I have left it on and explained it to her? Or how do I explain it to her now that I have turned it off?’ I made some feeble attempt, but I didn’t know how far to go, how deep to go. What age is it? Is she ready or not ready?

Then I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a problem for me.’ And then I thought, ‘What about a black family?’ You think they have a problem talking to their kids and figuring out what’s going on here? So it’s so convoluted and complicated that … everything sort of fades away if we don’t have that initial admission, that sorrowful recognition of what went on in the past and what has continued.”

We are at a crossroads in this country and in need of great leadership, honest conversation, and true unity. Pop has always tried his best to deliver.

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