Notoriously surly sideline interviewee Gregg Popovich may not always be an open book when it comes to basketball, but ask him about societal issues and he’ll give you an earful. On Thursday, following San Antonio’s 102-86 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, the Spurs coach dug into an issue from which he thinks too many Americans shy away — racism and race relations in the United States.
“I think if people take the time to think about it. I think it is our national sin,” he said. “It always intrigues me when people come out with, ‘I’m tired of talking about that,’ or, ‘Do we have to talk about race again?’ And the answer is, ‘You’re damned right we do’ because it’s always there — and it’s systemic, in the sense that when you talk about opportunity, it’s not about, ‘Well, if you lace up your shoes and you work hard, you can have the American Dream.’ That’s a bunch of hogwash.”
Popovich, who got on the topic after a reporter asked him about Black History Month, also took the opportunity to discuss white privilege, a concept that has garnered more attention lately because of the increasingly vocal “alt-right” movement known for its views espousing racist, anti-Semitic and sexist points of view.
“If you were born white, you automatically have a monstrous advantage — educationally, economically, culturally, in this society and all the systemic roadblocks that exist, whether it’s in a judicial sense, or a neighborhood sense with laws, zoning, education,” he said. “We have huge problems in that regard that are very complicated, but take leadership, time, and real concern to try to solve. It’s a tough one because people don’t really want to face it.”
Popovich has touched on this topic before, specifically in late November, when he criticized President Trump for appointing Stephen K. Bannon as his chief strategist. Bannon, who formerly ran the ultraconservative website Breitbart News, openly associates with alt-right ideas. Popovich had more words Thursday for Trump, who he criticized for contributing to the problem of systemic racism by “disparaging and trying to illegitimize” the country’s first black president, Barack Obama, for years.
“We know that was a big fake,” Popovich said. “But still, [Trump] felt for some reason it had to be done. I can still remember a paraphrase close to a quote, ‘Investigators were sent to Hawaii and you cannot believe what they found.’ Well, that was a lie. So if it’s being discussed and perpetrated at that level, you’ve got a national problem.”
Popovich shared his thoughts for nearly three minutes after a reporter asked him what February’s Black History Month meant to him.
“Well, it’s a remembrance, and a bit of a celebration in some ways,” Popovich said. “It sounds odd because we’re not there yet, but it’s always important to remember what has passed and what is being experienced now by the black population. It’s a celebration of some of the good things that have happened, and a reminder that there’s a lot more work to do.”