Speaking with the media virtually from the NBA ‘bubble’ in Orlando, Florida Saturday, San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich spoke about a number of topics, but his main focus was on keeping the social justice movement in the spotlight.
“It’s a seminal moment in the sense that we have the opportunity to do something transformative,” said Coach Popovich of the NBA wanting to put a spotlight on the social justice movement while in Orlando. “In today’s world, interest wanes quickly. Racism, it’s been talked about many many times. The league, coaches, staff, everybody’s committed to keeping it up front. It was the same with voting rights, which are now in danger.”
Popovich hopes the movement will drive, “more empathy for how much fear, how much hurt has been felt in the Black community.”
“Mostly it’s an educational thing,” said Popovich of society needing change not just in laws and rules, but in how we as a society look at racism and social justice. Referring to the the police officer who killed George Floyd in Minnesota in late May, Popovich said laws and rules won’t change everyone, people need change in the culture that they’re raised in. “Culture keeps people from doing those things.”
Popovich also discussed how even though slavery was ended after the Civil War, racism continued to exist through lynchings, the Jim Crow laws, the wealth gap, and today in forms like voter suppression of minority communities.
Popovich recommended everyone read an article by New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones on reparations.
“Making people think about it everyday,” said Popovich of what he and the players want to do with their platform in Orlando in regards to social justice.
“I don’t have all the answers obviously,” said Popovich when he was asked how frustrating it is that social justice has turned into a political issue with different sides. “It’s of course frustrating. Think about how frustrating it is for Black people. My frustration is totally meaningless. My frustration is to call out what needs to be called out.”
Earlier this week, Spurs guard Patty Mills announced he’ll be donating the salary he earns in Orlando to three social justice groups in Australia.
“He’s the spiritual leader of our team,” said Popovich of Mills. “He’s a very special human being.”
“As far as basketball, I did nothing,” said Popovich of his time off during the suspension. He said he never looked at stats or watched any game film. He used his time instead spending it with his family and focusing on social justice causes.
“You pick that up very quickly like riding a bicycle,” said Popovich getting back to basketball this week.
“Is this where I want to spend a lot of my time,” said Popovich (71) of debating whether or not to go to Orlando. “Do I really want to do this, is it safe?”
He said after speaking with the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver, he felt it was safer in the ‘bubble’ than back home.
He said if the bubble works, “I am safer here than I would be in Texas.”