San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich lends his voice to protestors
Gregg Popovich has never been shy about speaking his mind. The head coach and leader of the San Antonio Spurs has always emphasized that he is a human being and an American first, and a basketball coach second. It’s led to criticism at times but it is one of the reasons so many Spurs fans look to him in times of crisis.
On May 25th, an African-American man named George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota by a member of the Minneapolis Police Department. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been fired from the department and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The killing sparked peaceful and violent protests in cities across the world.
Over the past week, we have seen many members of the NBA take part in peaceful protests across the country. Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon led a march in Atlanta, Marcus Smart took attended a protest in Boston, Udonis Haslem spoke at a peaceful protest in his hometown of Miami, and our own Lonnie Walker helped out in San Antonio by delivering water to volunteers and helping clean up the morning after a protest. Now we’re hearing what Popovich has to say about what’s been happening.
San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich speaks out on George Floyds death
Dave Zirin with The Nation was the first to report what Popovich had to say. Pop called him last night, saying he was finally ready to talk. He talked about institutionalized racism, police brutality, what he views as a failure of leadership across the highest levels of government, and how we can come together to tackle these issues.
“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.”
Pop would go on to criticize Republican leaders such as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnell. Popovich saved some of his harshest criticism for the President, a man he has never been afraid to voice his feelings on, calling him a “deranged idiot.”
Popovich isn’t the first, and surely won’t be the last, member of the San Antonio Spurs to speak on these issues. Former Spurs forward Stephen Jackson was one of the first to add his voice to those calling for justice for the man he called his twin. Jackson and Floyd had grown up together in Port Arthur, Texas, and remained close friends.
As a league, the NBA has been quick and resolute in its response to the killing of George Floyd. In a memo sent to the league, Commissioner Adam Silver offered his condolences to the families of those who have been killed in similar incidents and reaffirmed the leagues’ commitment to fighting against police brutality and racism.
“Like you, I spent the weekend watching the protests around the country over the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. As a league, we share the outrage and offer our sincere condolences to their families and friends. Just as we are fighting a pandemic, which is impacting communities and people of color more than anyone else, we are being reminded that there are wounds in our country that have never healed. Racism, police brutality and racial injustice remain part of everyday life in America and cannot be ignored.”
You can see a full list of how various NBA teams are responding in their communities and across the country here.