Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich are two of the finest coaches in the NBA, if not the world. They also happen to be wise in terms of how they handle leadership matters and political discussions. When others are too timid or unsure of what to say in response to certain issues, Kerr and Popovich frequently are there to speak out. That’s a large part of what has made them so popular in the sports world and beyond. That’s also what makes their responses — or lack of responses — to the Daryl Morey/NBA China situation so disappointing.
When asked about the matter on Monday, rather than go to bat for his colleague Daryl Morey, who supported those protesting in Hong Kong, Kerr said he did not want to talk about the matter because he was not knowledgeable enough about the subject. He called it a “bizarre international story.”
Steve Kerr's full statement on the NBA/China controversy pic.twitter.com/7D5QTCtQe9
— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) October 8, 2019
“It’s a really bizarre international story, and a lot of us don’t know what to make of it. So it’s something I’m reading about just like everybody is, but I’m not going to comment further than that,” Kerr said, via Golden State Warriors reporter Logan Murdock.
“What I’ve found is that it’s easy to speak on issues that I’m passionate about and that I feel like I’m well-versed on, and I’ve found that it makes the most sense to stick to topics that fall in that category,” he added. “So I try to keep my comments to those things, and so it’s not difficult. It’s more I’m just trying to learn.”
On Tuesday, Popovich was asked about the matter and offered his support for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
“He’s been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous,” Popovich told reporters at the Spurs-Miami Heat preseason game Tuesday, via USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt. “Compared to what we’ve had to live through the last three years, there’s a big difference gap there leadership-wise and courage-wise.”
Keep in mind that the NBA tailored a statement to China in which they called Morey’s support of Hong Kong protesters “inappropriate” and said they were “extremely disappointed” in the Rockets GM. Popovich could have supported Morey — a position I would have expected him to take based on the Spurs coach’s past support of individual rights. But he stood with Silver instead. And Kerr wriggled off the hook by feigning ignorance.
Popovich supported Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. Kerr has as well and even said the NFL was “blackballing” the former quarterback for kneeling. These guys have called out Donald Trump when they felt the president’s behavior was inappropriate.
And they choose not to support Daryl Morey standing for democracy and freedom of speech — values they have championed in the past — when they had the opportunity? That’s very disappointing.
The league is preserving its business relationship with China. So is ESPN. Kerr and Popovich are doing the same. How much different does this make them from the NFL and the NFL’s owners, who wanted anthem protests to go away because it was also bad for business?
There are no two ways about it; China is a communist country. The fact that some think twice about criticizing China due to the country’s political spin tactics and actions against dissenters prove these truths. Supporting democracy, freedom of speech, and other first amendment rights — as Morey did — is not a partisan issue; it’s American right down to our constitution.
The fact that Kerr, Popovich, and others feel so comfortable issuing criticism in America but fear doing so about China helps prove why our country, despite some of its faults, is great. And if you support Kaepernick for standing up and expressing his beliefs against what he felt was wrong, you similarly should back Morey for doing the same. That’s what makes it disappointing that these two leaders chose not to.
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