SAN ANTONIO – Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich blasted a San Antonio-area school district for continuing to honor Christopher Columbus and the day that bears the Italian explorer’s name.
Popovich, speaking to reporters on Friday before a Spurs preseason game, was asked about President Joe Biden’s proclamation recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday, Oct. 11.
“It’s way overdue for our country. I would think there are a lot of people very happy about it,” said Popovich. “I think the proclamation was obviously appropriate, important, needed and all those sorts of things, but I’m a little confused about our city, and why its Indigenous Peoples Day/Columbus Day.”
The Spurs head coach then shared why he felt Columbus Day should not be recognized in US schools and criticized Alamo Heights ISD for continuing to honor Columbus while crediting San Antonio ISD for recognizing Indigenous groups.
“Columbus? He initiated a new world genocide. That’s what he did. Beginning with him and what he set in motion, and what followed meant the annihilation of every Indigenous person in Hispaniola, which was Haiti and the Dominican Republic today. He took slaves. He mutilated. He murdered. And we’re going to say say ‘slash’ and honor him?” Popovich questioned.
“I have to give the San Antonio Independent School District a little bit of credit because at least they added Indigenous Peoples’ Day along with it and that’s a step in the right direction, but what the hell is Alamo Heights thinking? It’s Columbus Day. That’s why they’re off on Monday? Maybe there’s something I’m missing and I’m ignorant, but it makes me feel like they’re living in a phone booth and they’re educating our kids. Columbus Day? And we’re going to honor that?” Popovich said.
The Alamo Heights school calendar recognized Columbus Day as a student holiday and staff development day while SAISD’s calendar recognized Oct. 11 as a holiday for Columbus Day I Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Popovich added that his criticism of Columbus Day was not a “knock on Italian-Americans” and several other states have already started to recognize Indigenous groups and their stories.
“That’s a silly argument. It’s like saying we should be proud of Hitler because we’re German. I mean it makes no sense. It’s about Columbus. It’s not about Italian-Americans. And so, there are a lot of states that have come out and scratched the Columbus Day and made it Indigenous Peoples’ Day. But in our city, are we that backward that we have school districts that do that? I’m amazed. Just amazed,” Popovich said.
KSAT reached out to the Alamo Heights ISD for a statement on Popovich’s comments and had not heard back from the district as of 5 p.m. Monday.