Media day for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs at one point turned into an instance of coach Gregg Popovich delivering a speech that condemned Donald Trump’s recent comments about players protesting, called the United States an embarrassment to the world and called out white privilege for what it is.
Popovich told the gathered reporters that Spurs players have the right to say what they want to say and act how they want to act, and that they can do so with the full support of the team’s coaching staff and management.
“[I]t is important to them to be respected by us, and there is no recrimination, no matter what might take place, unless it’s ridiculously egregious,” Popovich said.
Popovich, 68, is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and served five years in the U.S. military. He called Trump’s decision to rescind his invitation to the NBA champion Golden State Warriors to come to the White House “disgusting” and said it was “comical it was rescinded because they weren’t going anyway.”
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“Our country is an embarrassment in the world,” Popovich said. “This is an individual that when people held arms during games, [Trump thought] that they were doing it to honor the flag. That’s delusional. But it’s what we have to live with. You’ve got a choice: We can continue to bounce our heads off the walls with his conduct, or we can decide the institutions of our country are more important, people are more important, [the] decent America we all have and want is more important—get down to business at the grassroots level and do what we have to do.”
Popovich went on to say that Americans need to have an honest conversation about race:
I’m an individual. I live in this country. I have a right to say and do what I want. It has nothing to do with my position. Obviously, race is the elephant in the room, and we all understand that unless it is talked about constantly, it is not going to get better. People get bored, “Oh, is it that again? They are pulling the race card.” Because it’s uncomfortable, there has be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change. Whether it is LGBT movement, women’s suffrage, race, [it] doesn’t matter. People have to be made to feel uncomfortable; especially white people. We still have no clue of what being born white means.
If you read some of the recent literature, there is no such thing as whiteness. But we made it up. Not my original thought, but it’s true. Because you were born white, you have advantages systemically, culturally, psychology there. They have been built up for hundreds of years. Many people can’t look at it. [It] can’t be something on their plate on a daily basis. People want their status quo. People don’t want to give it up. Until it’s given up, it’s not going to be fixed.
Straight out of the mouth of a white man, but when I tell you that people on Twitter still wanted to argue that white privilege is not a thing—please believe me.
We have such a long way to go.