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#pounditTuesday, August 11, 2020

Gregg Popovich shares thoughts on national anthem protests

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Gregg Popovich can be a man of very few words, particularly when giving in-game interviews. But when it comes to issues of social injustice and inequality, the San Antonio Spurs coach apparently has plenty to say.

While meeting with reporters on Monday, Popovich was asked for his thoughts on Colin Kaepernick and other athletes protesting the national anthem.

“I absolutely understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and I respect their courage for what they’ve done,” Popovich said, via Melissa Rohlin of MySanAntonio.com. “The question is whether it will do any good or not because it seems that change really seems to happen through political pressure, no matter how you look at it. Whether it’s Dr. [Martin Luther] King getting large groups together and boycotting buses, or what’s happened in Carolina with the NBA and other organizations pulling events to make it known what’s going on.

“But I think the important thing that Kaepernick and others have done is to keep it in the conversation. When’s the last time you heard the name Michael Brown? With our 24/7 news, things seem to drift. We’re all trying to just exist and survive.”

Many white Americans have felt too uncomfortable to speak about the root of Kaepernick’s decision to not acknowledge the national anthem, but that is not the case with Popovich. The five-time champion coach added that he understands why both African Americans and police officers would fear for their lives right now.

“At this point, when somebody like Kaepernick brings attention to this, and others who have, it makes people have to face the issue because it’s too easy to let it go because it’s not their daily experience,” Pop said. “If it’s not your daily experience, you don’t understand it. I didn’t talk to my kids about how to act in front of a policeman when you get stopped. I didn’t have to do that. All of my black friends have done that. There’s something that’s wrong about that, and we all know that. What’s the solution? Nobody has figured it out. But for sure, the conversation has to stay fresh, it has to stay continuous, it has to be persistent, and we all have a responsibility to make sure that happens in our communities.”

When asked if he will speak to his team about protesting the anthem, Popovich said he would never threaten disciplinary action against any player who felt inclined to exercise his rights.

“I don’t think a condemnation of any sort of act should happen until it’s thought out,” he said. “For instance, with Kaepernick, a pretty good group of people immediately thought he was disrespecting the military. It had nothing to do with his protest. In fact, he was able to do what he did because of what the military does for us.”

For those who only know Pop from the way he snaps at basketball reporters (video here), the long-winded response may seem out of character. That just goes to show you how passionate he feels about the issues at hand.

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