SAN ANTONIO – Gregg Popovich has upset and rankled many people for speaking out publicly on race and politics in the United States, but no one can deny that for years the Spurs head coach has had a consistent message when it comes to social injustice and reform.
It came after mass demonstrations across the country to protest police brutality and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
It was the not first time or likely the last we will hear Popovich publicly discuss these matters.
Here’s a look the previous times the Spurs head coach has spoken out against the president and social injustice issues.
1. On Nov. 11, 2016, Popovich did not hesitate to voice his disappointment that Trump had been elected president.
Popovich said he “was sick to his stomach” over the results and compared the state of the country to the fall of Rome.
2. A week later, Popovich told reporters that Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon as his chief strategist would cause fear for lot of people. Bannon has supported many right-wing groups over the years.
“It would be great if he (Trump) made some statements to all of the groups he disparaged, to bring us all together, and to allay fears, because there are a lot of fearful people, and for good reason. But rather than doing that, he inflamed it even more with that appointment.”
3. On Sept 25, 2017, Popovich spoke at length at Spurs media day about systemic racism and politics. He said the country under Trump had become “an embarrassment to the world.”
“Obviously, race is the elephant in the room and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly, it’s not going to get better. Why do we have to talk about that?’ Well, because it’s uncomfortable. There has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change.”
4. During the same press conference, Popovich also spoke about Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
Popvich told reporters that his players have the right and ability to say what they want. This came after Trump criticized players for kneeling.
“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.”
5. On Oct. 16, 2017, Popovich unloaded on Trump in an interview with The Nation.
Popovich responded to Trump’s comments about whether past presidents called or wrote letters to the families of American soldiers killed in action.
“His comments about those who have lost loved ones in times of war and his lies that previous presidents Obama and Bush never contacted their families are so beyond the pale, I almost don’t have the words.”
Popovich described Trump as a “soulless coward” and a “pathological liar” among other things.
6. On March 27, 2018, Popovich slammed the president when he was asked about the March for Our Lives Rally to end gun violence. Popovich felt Trump diverted from addressing gun control.
“We take our eye off the ball, and he’s (Trump) great at it. He’s great at it. He brings out the dark side of human beings for his own purpose,” Popovich said.
“Is one life more important than some congressman keeping his position because he’s afraid he won’t get funds of the NRA? It’s a dereliction of duty on the part of everybody around Trump.”
7. On Oct. 13, 2019, Popovich responded to Trump’s criticism about how the NBA handled the China-Hong Kong situation.
Trump called out Popovich and Steve Kerr for not publicly speaking out on the Hong Kong controversy. Popovich said he was proud of NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s leadership during the ordeal.
“All I did was make a comparison between Adam Silver’s show of principle and courage in a tough situation, as opposed to how our president reacts when in the company of authoritarian figures, whether it’s Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Russia or Turkey, whatever it is,” Popovich said. “It comes off as really feckless, impotent, cowardly by comparison.”
8. In the midst of a losing streak in late November, Popovich trolled Trump when asked by Express-News columnist Mike Finger about the Spurs’ losing streak and the team going through a difficult time.
“We’re kicking ass. Jeez. Fake News. The man was right. Fake news,” Popovich said.
"It’s a conspiracy theory. Whoever started the rumor that we’re losing these games, it didn’t happen. It’s not true. It’s a witch hunt. I see intrigue, I see treasonous behavior. I see spies. They’re all sick, all those people saying that,” Popovich said.
9. This past January, Popovich was asked to reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and race relations in the country. Part of his answer focused on the country’s leadership.
“It seems like a lot of roll back in that regard, especially as we look at the race situation in our country. Everybody wants to forget about it but it should be there, front and center, constantly," Popovich said.
“Race is still the unanswered dilemma that everyone continues to ignore. Dr. King did not ignore it, and it’s a big fear now that we have a group in power that is very willing to ignore it. It’s not just with their words, but their actions prove it, and that is scary.”
10. A week before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the NBA season, Popovich was asked about Trump’s response to the spread of the virus in the U.S.
Popovich said it was bizarre for the president to claim on Feb. 25 that COVID-19 was “pretty close to airtight.”
“Who would say that? Just logic wise, intelligence wise, you wouldn’t say that, even if it was airtight,” said Popovich. “Today it was our president blaming Barack Obama for the fact that we don’t have the kits that we need right now. Seriously.”
Popovich continued by saying Trump only cared about himself or how the virus affected him financially.
“Seriously. If it affects him personally in a financial or political way, and it’s positive, he’s all for it," Popovich said. "But if it goes against him, whether it’s a person or an organization, he’ll go after them. And we all know why. Because he’s a coward.”