Popovich on Trump, protests: 'We still have no clue of what being born white means'

After a day of protest and displays of unity in the NFL on Sunday, players and coaches from across the NBA spent their media days offering their thoughts on President Donald Trump's recent comments. 

Bradley Beal, for example, called Trump a "clown," while LeBron James expanded on the statements he made on social media throughout the weekend. 

In what should come as little surprise, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich also had some thoughts to share on the issue, and once again, he spoke very eloquently about the problems the country is facing. 

In a wide-ranging and thoughtful response, he noted that his players have the organization's full support to speak their minds, and later added that he feels the country is "an embarrassment to the world."

Popovich's full comments on sports, culture and politics:

There's a lot involved in that when you say culture and politics and sports. People write books about that. I would hesitate to take that on as a whole. It makes more sense to me to be a bit more specific, and I'll just tell you what we say to our team.

Each one of them has the right and ability to say what they would like to say, and act the way they'd like to act. They have our full support and no matter what they might want to do or not do is important to them, respected by us, and there's no recrimination no matter what might take place, unless it's ridiculously egregious. There's a line for everything. But we do live in a difficult time and it doesn't do a whole lot of good ...

We all know the situation and it gets beaten up every day by talking heads, it starts to get personal. I think we all know why, we all know who the source where a lot of the division comes from, but to dwell on that is sometimes I think is the wrong way to go, because it's so obvious now. It's boring. The childishness, the gratuitous fear mongering and race baiting, has been so consistent that it's almost expected. The bar has been lowered so far that I think it's more important to be thinking about what to do in more organic roots based level. Thinking about the efforts to restrict voter registration, comments that demean cultures, ethic groups, races, women. Those sorts of things. What can be done in an organic way to fight that?

We know how everything happens, we know where the power in the country is, we know the racism that exists. But it's gone beyond that to a point where I'm more worried about, and confused by, the people around our president. These are intelligent people who know exactly what's going on. They basically were very negative about his actions but now it seems like it's condoned. We saw it this weekend with his comments about people who should be fired or people who shouldn't be allowed to do this sort of thing. I wonder what the people think about who voted for him, where their line is, how much they can take, where does the morality and decency kick in?

I understand very well they didn't like their choice, economically. A lot of people had a problem. And he was the right guy at the right time to tap into that mood. But people overlooked one helluva lot to pull that trigger and vote in that direction, but it was because they wanted change, they felt ignored, they actually thought something would happen that would aid them. But at what price, is the question.

And as we see the actions over and over again, one wonders what is in their head. Have they come to the conclusion that they had the wrong vehicle? They might have had good ideas, good reasons why they wanted to go the way they went. But someone else that had a little bit more decency about how they approach other people and other groups might have served better. That's what I worry about in the country.

You wonder about if you live where you thought you live. I just heard a comment this morning from a NASCAR owner and Mr. Petty that just blew me away, just blew me away. Where the owner described that he would get the Greyhound bus tickets for anybody to leave, and they'd be fired, and Mr. Petty, who said people who act the way we saw Sunday, they should leave the country. That's where I live. I had no idea that I lived in a country where people would actually say that sort of thing. I'm not totally naive but I think these people have been enabled by an example that we've all been given. You've seen it in Charlottesville, and on and on and on. That's not a surprise. Get over it. What do we do to get it done. To go to the grassroots and not allow this to happen again.

Our country's an embarrassment to the world. This is an individual who actually thought that when people held arms during the game, that they were doing it to honor the flag. That's delusional. Absolutely delusional. But it's what we have to live with.

So we have a choice. We can continue to bounce our heads off the wall with his conduct, or we can decide that the institutions of our country are more important, that people are more important, that the decent America that we all thought we had and want is more important, and get down to business at a grassroots level and do what we have to do.

I guess that's enough for now.

Additionally, Popovich spoke about race, which he called the "elephant in the room," and said it's vital to actually have a conversation about it, even -- especially -- if it makes people uncomfortable. 

Popovich's full answer:

I don't think about some platform I have, I'm an individual. I live in this country. I have a right to say and think what I want. It's got nothing to do with my position. If it helps somebody else think one way or another about something, then great. But the discussion has to take place. Race is the elephant in the room, and we all understand that. But unless it is talked about, constantly, it's not gonna get better. People get bored, 'oh is it that again... pulling the race card again... why do we have to talk about that?' Well, because it's uncomfortable. There has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change. Whether it's the LGBT movement, or women's suffrage, race, it doesn't matter. People have to be made to feel uncomfortable. And especially white people, because we're comfortable. We still have no clue what being born white means. If you read some of the recent literature, you realize there really is no such thing as whiteness, we've made it up. That's not my original thought, but it's true. It's hard to sit down and decide that yes, it's like you're at the 50 meter mark in a 100 meter dash, you've got that kind of lead. Yes, because you were born white, you have advantages that are systemically, culturally, psychologically there. And they've been built up and cemented for hundreds of years, but many people can't look at it. It's too difficult, it can't be something that is on their plate on a daily basis. People want to hold their position, people want the status quo, people don't want to give that up. And until it's given up, it's not gonna be fixed. 

This, of course, is not the first time Popovich has spoken about society or politics -- most recently, he criticized Trump before Game 1 of last season's Western Conference finals against the Warriors -- and it likely won't be the last. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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