NBA San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich lashed out at President Donald Trump for his response to protests over the death of George Floyd and called for profound changes to tackle racism in the United States.
Popovich’s statements, made to the weekly The Nation on Sunday, were released on Monday, coinciding with a joint statement by the NBA technical team in which they pledged to promote actions against racism.
Popovich, a fierce critic of Trump for years, told The Nation that police violence and racism in the United States laid the foundation for the unrest that has occurred in some cities during the Floyd crime rallies.
“What strikes me is that we all see this police violence and racism and we’ve seen it all before, but nothing changes,” said Popovich, one of the NBA’s most reputable coaches and winner of five championships.
“This is why these protests have been so explosive. But without leadership and without an understanding of what the problem is, there will never be change,” he said. “And white Americans have always avoided considering this problem because it has been our privilege to be able to avoid it. That also has to change.”
The death of Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, following a brutal arrest a week ago in Minneapolis, Minnesota, unleashed the biggest wave of protests in decades in the United States.
In a public intervention, following Popovich’s statements, Trump assured on Monday that he will restore order in the United States, threatening to deploy the military if the violent acts in the protests do not stop.
“I am horrified that we have a leader who cannot say ‘Black lives matter’. He cannot because it is more important to him to appease the small group of supporters who validate his insanity (…) In the end, what we have is an idiot instead of a president, “said Popovich. “But it is more than just Trump. The system has to change.”
This Monday, Popovich and the rest of the NBA coaches signed a joint statement pledging to work with the authorities and the police agencies of their cities against racism.
“Witnessing the murder of George Floyd in cold blood and in broad daylight has traumatized our nation, but the reality is that African Americans are harassed and abused on a daily basis,” the technicians said.
“As NBA coaches, we cannot treat this as an isolated incident of outrage … We are committed to working in our NBA cities with local leaders, officials and law enforcement to create positive change in our communities “33 NBA head coaches and more than 150 assistant coaches stated in the text, including the Spain coach and Toronto Raptors assistant Sergio Scariolo.
An official autopsy released Monday determined that Floyd died of “homicide” due to “neck compression” when a police officer pinned him to the knee for nearly nine minutes.
“In other words, he was assassinated,” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said on Twitter, who according to ESPN will join Popovich and other technicians on a committee that will lead the guild’s actions.
An officer has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and protesters are demanding that three other police officers who participated in the arrest also be prosecuted.
The NBA has massively joined the demands for justice for Floyd’s crime and the end of racial discrimination, including teams, dozens of players and some of his greatest legends, such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
Several young players, such as Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), participated in the marches over the weekend. This Monday also did the young figure of the Atlanta Hawks Trae Young at a demonstration in the city where he grew up, Norman (Oklahoma).
“I am not used to doing this. But although I am 21 years old, I think it is necessary (…) It is not about me or you. We have to unite and do it together, there will be justice and there will be changes if we do it together” , said the All Star base from the dais.