ATLANTA — Gregg Popovich keeps it 100.
And on Monday, the Spurs coach, who’s never been shy about sharing his thoughts on racism and social issues, used his platform to discuss the importance of playing on MLK Day in the city of Atlanta.
“Dr. King, he was truly a person who was interested in making America great for everyone,” Popovich said.
“He understood that racism was our national sin, and if everybody didn’t come together it would bring everybody down, including white people. That promise that he basically demanded for America to fill from way back then is what put us on the road to make America great. At the same time, we all know the situation now. And I think he’d be a very, very sad man to see that a lot of his efforts have been held up and torn down. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at the Voting Rights Act or the ridiculous number of people of color who are incarcerated.”
The Spurs and Hawks were a part of the 22 teams that played on the national holiday that commemorates King’s legacy. NBA players throughout the league were seen wearing “I Have A Dream” shirts, which featured a quote on the back from King’s famous speech from Aug. 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
NBA stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Warriors coach Steve Kerr shared their thoughts on MLK on Monday, but it was Popovich who was the one to speak at great length about Donald Trump and racism in America.
“(Racism) is insidious and it’s still our national sin that we have to work on,” he said. “Every time I hear somebody say they’re not a racist, you know they are. So, those are some of the thoughts I have on this day. You want to be happy for some things, but current circumstances make it very difficult to clap too much.”
Popovich was in his third year at the Air Force Academy when Dr. King was assassinated and reflected on where he was when he heard the news.
“I could remember sitting in a room with other second classmen, or juniors, and it was just disbelief more than anything, especially given the speech that he had already given. It was just silence, and no one could speak. That’s what I remember most,” Popovich said with tears in his eyes.
The conversation concerning social issues and sports dominated the news last year. Players and coaches of different genders and colors took their turn across the sports world to share their beliefs and ideas about whether or not sports were the right place for such a serious conversation to be had.
And in the NBA, a league that’s dominated by men of color, it’s been Popovich, an older white man, who has been the loudest voice when it comes to consistently pointing out injustices and using his platform to speak on inequality, racism, politics and Trump.
“I think we all have a responsibility to call out injustice and racism,” he said. “This whole little deal we’re going through now with comments about African countries and so on and so forth. You can argue all day and you can see some of his (Trump) sycophants dodge and weave, and all that sort of thing. You can argue that he is or he isn’t, but what really is disgusting to me is that, even if you wanted to see he is not a racist. Or as he says, he’s the least racist of anybody, and I still don’t understand that term. But, he certainly is willing to wield race like a weapon and use it for his own purposes, whether it’s Charlottesville, or whether it’s the comment he just made, or that you can’t believe what they’re finding in Hawaii about Obama’s birth certificate.”
“Pop” was preaching on Monday.
“No matter what it is, he’s willing to use it as a weapon for a certain number of people who will vote for him for his own selfish reasons. And it shows that what he really cares about is himself. It has nothing to do with America or anybody else, it’s about puffing himself up and making sure that in his own disingenuous and cynical way he satisfies a group. And that’s what I find really dangerous and really disgusting. The way he uses his comments, and then will tell you that he’s not a racist. It’s mindboggling, but it’s pretty darn obvious that he isn’t fooling anybody.”
It will be interesting to see if 2018 will be a continuation of what 2017 was in terms of how sports and social issues were intertwined.
But, there is one thing I do know.
We need more Gregg Popovich.
Because in a time in which it seems like many have forgotten what Dr. King was truly all about, Popovich is one man that’s trying to keep his dream alive.
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