Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, two NBA coaches who have been outspoken in their criticism of President Trump, used the occasion of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to make a few more points about the president and the current political climate.
Popovich, the San Antonio Spurs coach, made his comments in Atlanta, King’s home town, a day after Trump told reporters, “I’m not a racist. I’m the least racist person you’ve ever interviewed” after calling Haiti and African nations “s—hole” countries. He did not mention the president by name, but Popovich’s comments were clear.
“You can argue all day and you can see some of his sycophants dodge and weave and all that sort of thing, and you can argue he is or isn’t,” he said (via the San Antono Express). “But what really is disgusting to me, is even if you wanted to say he is not a racist, or even as he says he is the least racist of anybody… he is certainly willing to wield race like weapon and use it for his own purposes, whether it’s Charlottesville [after the white supremacist violence in August], or the comment he just made, or ‘You can’t believe what they are finding in Hawaii about Obama’s birth certificate.’
“… No matter what it is, he is willing to use it as a weapon for a certain number of people who will vote for him, for his own selfish reasons, and it shows what he really cares about is himself. It has nothing to do with America or anybody else. It’s about puffing himself up and making sure in his own disingenuous, cynical way he satisfies a group, and that’s what I find really dangerous and really disgusting, the way he uses his comments and then will tell you he is not a racist.
“It is mind-boggling, but it’s pretty obvious. He’s not fooling anybody.”
Popovich was a student at the Air Force Academy when King was assassinated nearly 50 years ago. “I can remember sitting in a room with other second classmen — juniors, I should say — and it was just disbelief more than anything, especially given the speech he had already given,” Popovich said, becoming emotional. “It was a silence, just silence. Nobody could speak. That’s what I remember most.”
Popovich, who has called Trump a “soulless coward,” was referring to the sermon King gave the day before his death, saying, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. … And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
Kerr, the Golden State Warriors coach who has said Trump is “ill-suited” for the presidency, echoed Popovich when asked what King would make of the United States today.
“That’s a great question,” Kerr said (via the Mercury News). “He would be less than inspired by the leadership in our country, no doubt about that.”
Kerr went on to attribute some of the polarization in the country to social media.
“There’s so much anger on social media and there’s such a forum now for everybody to just display this anger without repercussion. Just sit behind your keyboard and tell everybody whatever vulgar and profane thing you want to say,” he said. “You’re free from repercussion, and, yet, you’re sending this anger and vile out into the atmosphere. There’s a lot of that included in what’s happening right now. Then there are those that express that vile openly without thought or repercussion.”
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