- Twitter / BenGolliver
Pop not only defended NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's handling of the controversy in comments reported by MySA.com, but drew a sharp contrast between the league chief's actions and those of President Donald Trump, a frequent target of the coach's ire.
In essence, Pop made the argument out that Silver put free speech ahead of the NBA's business interest in China, something Trump — whom he did not directly name — has repeatedly failed to do as leader of the free world.
“[Silver] came out strongly for freedom of speech. ... He’s been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous. Then you compare it to what we’ve had to live through the past three years, it’s a big difference,” Popovich said. “A big gap there, leadership-wise and courage-wise. It wasn’t easy for him to say. He said that in an environment fraught with possible economic peril. But he sided with the principles that we all hold dearly, or most of us did until the last three years. I’m thrilled with what he said. The courage and leadership displayed is off the charts by comparison.”
But Pop — who's called Trump a “soulless coward” and “pathological liar” in the past — wasn't done yet.
“We’ve all talked about or heard about all the talking heads have and everybody for the last three years, ‘What kind of country do you want to be? Who are we? Where do we want to go?’” he went on. “Adam said something that helps you understand what direction you need to go in, rather than the cowardice of not being able to respond to something of the murder of [U.S. journalist Jamal] Khashoggi. There are many, many incidents like that where leadership and courage mean nothing. It’s all about personal aggrandizement.”
In case you haven't been following the NBA's current public relations debacle with China, Silver was placed in the hot seat after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the Hong Kong's pro-democracy protestors — much to the disapproval of the league's Chinese partners.
After an initially wishy-washy defense, Silver finally stood by the GM, saying that the that freedom of expression is "deeply rooted" in the NBA's values.
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.