Popovich, a product of the Air Force Academy and the coach of the U.S. men’s national basketball team, had been highly critical of Trump after the inauguration as thousands of protesters marched in cities across the country, and on Monday he called Trump’s “willingness to do whatever’s necessary to get elected” something that is “unacceptable and really disgusting.” Speaking with reporters shortly before the Spurs’ game against the Pacers in Indianapolis, Popovich was asked about his childhood in East Chicago and his playing days on the courts in Gary, a predominantly African American city.
Popovich used the question as the jumping-off point to talk about inclusion and admitted that some aren’t going to want to hear a wealthy hoops coach spout off.
“There’s going to be somebody who will say, ‘Just go coach your basketball team,'” Popovich said (via WTHR’s Bob Kravitz). “‘Just go do this, sing your song, just go run the football,’ whatever it might be….
“We all hope President Trump is successful. We hope he does some good things for everyone, but he didn’t start the presidency by mollifying any groups he disparaged during the campaign. He didn’t say anything about women, or black people, or Mexican people, Hispanic people, LGBT people, handicapped people. [He] acted like it never happened. So that willingness to do whatever it took to get elected, to say and act the way he did, I thought was unacceptable and really disgusting, so I said it. Even people who voted for him can see that, but for some reason, they feel they can ignore that or forget about it. His personality, [his] inability to get over himself, informs his words and his decisions, and that’s what’s scary.”
Popovich, whose degree is in Soviet studies, at one point considered working for the CIA. Now 68, he served five years in the Air Force and played for the U.S. Armed Forces basketball team on a tour of Eastern Europe and the then-Soviet Union. Like Popovich, Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, whose father was a victim of terrorism, and Detroit Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy have also been critical of Trump.
“Sometimes when life moves along, you’re presented with situations where you find it necessary to speak because so many people either seem to be afraid to or, more sinister, are unwilling to face things and let things go and worry about their own situations,” Popovich said.
“And most of those people have had opportunities the vast majority have not. I think it’s important for people who have had opportunities to make sure other people with opportunities know they were very, very, very fortunate. That could have been having a couple of parents … where you were born, what your skin color is, what country you were born in … it’s all chance. You didn’t do that. You get no credit for that, for getting those opportunities. So a lot of people have an easy time forgetting that, and this situation we’re in now, we’re finding a lot of people who are in charge or will be shortly when they’re nominated have very little clue about what many, many people have to go through to live in this world.“Some days, I feel like we’ve been invaded by another power and taken over [by people] who don’t feel the same. It’s a strange land.”