Facebook Live via San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs media day couldn't have come at a better time — at least for fans who are comfortable with mixing sports with politics.
Monday's media blitz followed a particularly momentous weekend for national sports leagues. It began on Friday, when President Donald Trump unexpectedly went off on NFL players
who kneel during the national anthem, a protest started by Colin Kaepernick last year.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out. He's fired. He's fired," Trump yelled.
Then, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry told reporters
that if it was up to him, his Championship-winning NBA team wouldn't accept Trump's invitation to the White House. By Saturday, Trump revoked the Warrior's invite through a tweet. Hundreds of NBA players (including the guy he beat in the championship game, LeBron James) came to Curry's defense.
Trump's Friday speech inspired over one hundred NFL players to kneel during the national anthem at their respective Sunday night football games across the country — many players (and coaches and owners) who didn't kneel linked arms with those who did, in solidarity.
Thus, the perfect storm of politics, athletics, and national pride landed in the Spurs' lap Monday morning. Or should we say, Coach Gregg Popovich's lap. As we know, Coach Pop has always been quick to condemn
many of Trump's racist and xenophobic decisions. He didn't hold back Monday.
"Here's what we say to our team," Popvich told reporters. "Each one of them has the right and ability to say what they would like to say and act the way they'd like to act. We live in a difficult time and it doesn't do a whole lot of good to focus on the divisiveness."
He went on, uninterrupted: "We all know where a lot of the division comes from, but to dwell on that is the wrong way to go. It's so obvious now it's boring, the childishness and race-baiting and gratuitous fear-mongering has been so consistent that it's almost expected."
Instead, he told the gaggle of sports reporters, the country must start thinking on a more "organic," grassroots level (his example? Banning voter ID laws). But it isn't going to be a breeze, Popovich reminded the crowd.
"There has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for something to change. People have to made to feel uncomfortable, and especially white people because we're comfortable," he said. "People want the status quo. People don't want to give that up. And until it's given up it's not going to be fixed."
Popovich mentioned recent comments from NASCAR team owner
Richard Petty, who said any drivers who don't stand for the anthem should leave the country.
"You wonder if you live where you thought you lived," Popovich said, appearing to tear up. "I had no idea I lived in a country where people would actually say that sort of thing. Our country is an embarrassment to the world."
Asked specifically about Trump un-inviting Curry and the Warriors to the White House, Popovich responded: "It's like a sixth grader having a party in his backyard and finds out someone isn't coming so he disinvites him."
"Although it's disgusting, [Trump's] behavior is almost comical."
Few national coaches speak so bluntly about politics as Popovich. Asked why, he shrugged his shoulders.
"If we've done anything to widen people's cultural, intellectual horizons that's great. But we don't have the answers. I just think being aware is important," he said. "I'm just one dude walking around, and that's just what I feel."
Watch it below: