Gregg Popovich spoke while showing visible anger. He became increasingly frustrated as he processed a Minneapolis police officer fatally shooting Daunte Wright, an unarmed Black man during a traffic stop.
“It just makes you sick to your stomach. How many times does it have to happen?” Popovich said before the Spurs’ game against the Orlando Magic on Monday. “As sick to our stomachs that we might feel, that individual is dead. He’s dead. And his family is grieving. And his friends are grieving. And we just keep moving on as if nothing is happening.”
Popovich talked in depth about the United States’ problems with racism, police brutality and school shootings, along with poignant criticism toward Republican legislators and former President Donald Trump.
“We see what’s happening with policing and Black men and some other people of color,” Popovich said. “With the massacres of our children, it’s the same thing. It goes on and on, and everybody says, ‘When is it going to be enough?’ Of course, I don’t have those answers. But the people who continually fight to maintain that status quo are not good people.”
Popovich described Texas Governor Greg Abbott as “deplorable” and “a liar” for various reasons, including his resistance to stricter gun laws, relaxing safety protocols to mitigate the coronavirus and perpetuating unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
“Do these people have grandchildren? Do they want their grandchildren to go to work and go to school and go through these drills and worry about being murdered?” Popovich said. “What does it take? Then care more about them than your freaking power and your position and your donors. With policing, it’s the same damn way. How many young Black kids have to be killed for no freaking reason? How many so that we can empower the police units? We need to find out who funds these people. I want to know what owners in the NBA fund these people who perpetrate these lies. Maybe that’s a good place to start so it’s all transparent.”
For the past year, the NBA and its players have become increasingly outspoken on systemic racism, including police brutality.
The Milwaukee Bucks staged a walkout before a playoff game against the Orlando Magic last summer in the NBA bubble a day after Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officers shot Jacob Blake seven times. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Brooklyn Nets also postponed their game on Monday. The NBA still hosted eight other games on Monday and has required players, coaches and team staff members to stand during the national anthem. Still, the Spurs and Magic locked arms during the national anthem before their game.
The NBA has also enabled its coaches and players to speak out on social justice issues. Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers, who is one of the league’s eight Black head coaches, has become one of the most outspoken.
“We keep hearing this cancel culture stuff, but we’re cancelling Black lives. To me, that’s more important in my opinion,” Rivers said before Monday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. “It just keeps happening. We keep making mistakes and killing Black people. I don’t want to get into race, but it’s there. I think we all have weaknesses. But I think we need to confront them and find out how we can make this place a better world and a better country. To me, improving our culture as a society is really important. Not cancelling it, but improving it. Other countries have done a terrific job.”
Rivers then brought up how Germany enacted various reparation policies after the Nazi regime was defeated in World War II.
“You don’t see swastikas. You don’t see statues or Nazi soldiers all around,” Rivers said. “They don’t say that’s cancel culture. They say that’s improving their culture. I think we need to think more in those terms.”