Here’s everything Gregg Popovich has said about social justice while in NBA bubble

From lynching to reparations, Popovich has discussed several social justice issues while in Orlando for NBA restart

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - JULY 31: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs stands while wearing a mask while head coach Luke Walton (C) of the Sacramento Kings kneels with players before an NBA basketball game at the Visa Athletic Center in the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on July 31, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kim Klement - Pool/Getty Images) (Kim Klement, 2020 Getty Images)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – When the NBA decided to restart its season in Orlando, many of the league’s coaches and players decided to use their platform to speak out on social injustices and reform in the wake of the momentum built after the George Floyd protests across the country.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, one of the league’s most outspoken figures, has used his time with the media to share his thoughts on the reparations that he says are needed.

Here is a look at what Popovich has said while in the NBA bubble.

In his first media session of the restart, Popovich said it was a “seminal moment” for the NBA and they had “an opportunity to do something transformative if we have the courage.”

Popovich said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the course of people’s lives on and off the court. “The league, players, coaches, staff, everybody is very committed to keeping it up front in everybody’s consciousness,” Popovich said.

He wrapped up the media session by saying a discussion about reparations needed to be had.

“None of us were educated about what Reconstruction really meant. We all learned that President Lincoln freed the slaves, he’s a hero and that was it. There was nothing else,” Popovich said.

“There are millions of white Americans who still live by all these myths and have no idea about what actually happened in Reconstruction, and what all the Jim Crow laws meant. And I’m sure even a lot of young black people have never had,” Popovich said. “It’s a template for at least understanding where we are, why we are and how we have to get all the way to the reparations discussion and not just wait for legislation and laws.”

Popovich stands for National Anthem, Spurs players kneel

Donning Black Lives Matter T-shirts, Spurs players kneeled and locked arms during the National Anthem before the Spurs first restart game.

Popovich chose not to kneel and stood for the anthem. He said prior to tipoff that the players did not have a directive from the team and they were allowed to do what they felt was appropriate. After the game, Popovich was asked about his choice.

“I’d prefer to keep that to myself. Everybody has to make a personal decision,” Popovich said. “The league’s been great about that. Everybody has the freedom to react any way they want. For whatever reasons I have, I reacted the way I wanted to.”

Popovich discusses North Carolina amendment requiring residents to pass literacy test before registering to vote

Prior to the Spurs second game in the bubble, Popovich was asked about the status of forward Marco Belinelli headed into the game.

He opted to instead discuss North Carolina approving a constitutional amendment 120 years ago that Popovich said required Black people to pass a literacy test in order to vote but did not require white people to do the same.

“It was so gross that they made a rule that if you had a relative before 1863 that had voted, and you’re still illiterate now, you can vote. So that meant white people could vote if they had a relative before 1863 who voted,” Popovich said. “Well, Black people were enslaved and didn’t have any relatives before 1863 who voted. So they were disenfranchised.”

Popovich continued by saying a former Confederate officer campaigned for the amendment by telling voters that passage was needed to protect white women.

“There was a former Confederate officer, William Guthrie, who on the eve of the election made a statement and basically said, ‘This was very necessary to protect the white women, that they can’t go out in the streets and don’t feel safe when they’re alone. We have to keep the quote-unquote colored people away from them,’” Popovich said.

“So he emphasized this on the eve of the election, to make sure that their way would be the rule that people had to live under. This sort of activity went on over and over and over again, for all this time.

“And again, it’s about education and culture, and none of us knew these kinds of things, none of us were taught these things,” Popovich said. “Black, Brown, Asian, Native American — it doesn’t matter. None of us were taught these things. Hopefully, if people understand how gross this situation really is and how long it’s been this gross, maybe we can make some headway.”

Popovich ultimately circled back to the original question and said Belinelli would not play.

Popovich on discrimination, inequality for Hispanic and Latino population

Prior to the start of the Spurs-Sixers game, Popovich was asked to discuss discrimination and inequality in the Hispanic and Latino communities.

“Black and brown people are the two major groups that suffered these injustices, obviously the black population for hundreds of years,” said Popovich. “But our brown brothers and sisters have suffered the same discriminations in a lot of ways that reflect the same system that has created such inequality in wealth across the board for black and brown peoples. The population that is the brown community has suffered no less systemic-type racism in many ways.”

The Spurs head coach then touched on immigration issues along the U.S-Mexico border.

“You could just look at the border and you can see what the treatment is like. From day one, when our president disparaged a Mexican judge because of his ruling and his actions at the border,” Popovich said.

“At this point, all you have to do is look at the border to see what the priorities are,” Popovich said. “Who rips children from their mothers? Sane, balanced, empathetic (people) do not participate in such actions, and you see what we’re held to every day to observe.”

Popovich provides start lesson on Indiana lynchings, meaning behind Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit”

Popovich provided another history lesson prior to the Spurs-Jazz game. He discussed at length the details surrounding the 1930 lynchings in Marion, Indiana, which occurred 90 years ago on Friday.

He then referred to a photo from the lynchings that was the influence for a poem written in 1937 titled “Strange Fruit.”

The poem became a popular song after it was covered and recorded by Billie Holiday. It essentially became a protest song to detail the history of African-American lynchings. Holiday was threatened every time she sang it in public.

“I read that and then learned that between the Civil War and 1950, there were 6,500 lynchings. Think about your family. Think about your ancestors. Imagine one. That’s two per week for nine decades,” Popovich said. “And people who want to ask what’s the big to-do about all this? Shameful.”

Popovich reflects on death of Michael Brown

Speaking with the media on Sunday, Popovich reflected on the death of Michael Brown which occurred on Aug. 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

“This was a young man who had just graduated from high school about a week earlier I think. There was some sort of an altercation that everybody has not agreed upon yet. But the fact that is agreed upon is this is a young man with his hands in the air, running away from an officer, running away and receives six shots in the back that killed him,” Popovich said.

Popovich continued: “It’s just another example of an overall culture, not every policeman, so don’t take it out of context, but an overall culture that sort of presumes guilt, or feels danger because it’s a young black man.”

“And this particular officer even said that he was in fear of his life. I can’t imagine being in fear of my life if somebody is running away from me with their hands up. That’s not too scary and of course he was never charged.”

“To this day, you can count the many more that have happened. And so that’s one of the reasons why the coaches, the owners, the players especially, the staffs, everybody here wants to make sure that we sound this out constantly to make sure the momentum does not go away.”

About the Author:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.