Gregg Popovich gives emotional statement: 'Our country is in trouble and the basic reason is race'

Liz Roscher
·4-min read

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is continuing his long tradition of speaking out on important issues.

The Spurs posted a video from Popovich to their Twitter account on Saturday as part of their “Spurs Voices” campaign. Popovich spoke eloquently and often emotionally about how it felt as a white person to watch the video of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, essentially choking the life out of him.

Floyd died in police custody, and Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder.

"In a strange, counterintuitive sort of way, the best teaching moment of this recent tragedy, I think, was the look on the officer's face. For white people to see how nonchalant, how casual, just how everyday-going-about-his job, so much so that he could just put his left hand in his pocket, wriggle his knee around a little bit to teach this person some sort of a lesson -- and that it was his right and his duty to do it, in his mind.

"I don't know. I think I'm just embarrassed as a white person to know that that can happen. To actually watch a lynching. We've all seen books, and you look in the books and you see black people hanging off of trees. And you ... are amazed. But we just saw it again. I never thought I'd see that, with my own eyes, in real time."

Popovich continued, saying that it’s the responsibility of white people to fight for the end of racism, and to make sure the promise of this country is finally realized by everyone who lives here.

"It’s important that we as white people... we have to do it. Black people have been shouldering this burden for 400 years. The only reason this nation has made the progress it has is because of the persistence, patience and effort of black people. The history of our nation from the very beginning in many ways was a lie, and we continue to this day, mostly black and brown people, to try to make that lie a truth so that it is no longer a lie. And those rights and privileges are enjoyed by people of color, just like we enjoy them. So it's got to be us, in my opinion, that speak truth to power, and call it out, no matter what the consequences. We have to speak. We have to not let anything go."

Gregg Popovich spoke emotionally about race and the responsibility of white people to fight for the end of racism. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Gregg Popovich spoke emotionally about race and the responsibility of white people to fight for the end of racism. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Popovich then compared this situation to the fight for tougher gun laws, noting that the endless refrain of “how many more killings will it take for things to change” can’t stop unless people start fighting for the rights of other people and not just themselves.

"It's just a situation that is very similar to me. It’s like the gun arguments. What's it going to take? Two few more black people with knees in their necks? I don't think so. I don't think that's going to happen. How many more Sandy Hooks do we have to have? It's easy for people to let things go, because it doesn't involve them.

"It's like the neighborhood where you know there's a dangerous corner, and you know that something's going to happen someday, and nobody does anything. And then a young kid gets killed and a stop sign goes up. Well, without getting too political, we've got a lot of stop signs that need to go up -- quickly -- because our country is in trouble. And the basic reason is race."

Popovich unloaded on Donald Trump last week for his response to the ongoing protests in Washington, D.C., and has been named to a committee on racial injustice and reform by the National Basketball Coaches Association.

Popovich has a history of speaking out on important issues, including racism. In 2017, amidst the furor over NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem, he said he fully supported his players protesting and insisted that people — white people especially — needed to have uncomfortable conversations about race.

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