Before his team’s 113-111 loss to the Golden State Warriors Sunday afternoon, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich popped – ahem – off on President Donald Trump. Here’s what he said:
“Usually things happen in the world and you go to work and you have your family and your friends and you do what you do.To this day, I feel like there’s a cloud, a pall over the whole country in a paranoid, surreal sort of way. It’s got nothing to do with the Democrats losing the election, it has to do with the way one individual conducts himself, and that’s embarrassing. It’s dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be. For this individual, he’s in a game show. Everything that happens begins and ends with him, not our people or our country. Every time he talks about those things, it’s a ruse. Disingenuous, cynical.”
This is far from a new thing for Popovich, who has emerged as one of Trump’s most consistent critics since he won the White House last November. USA Today’s “For the Win” blog counts 5 other times that the Spurs coach has hammered Trump – and that’s just in the last year or so.
One example: Popovich’s six-minute soliloquy on Trump, delivered just after the November election. Here’s just a part of it:
“It’s still early and I’m still sick to my stomach. Not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenor and tone and all the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and I live in that country where half the country ignored all that to elect someone. That’s the scariest part of the whole thing to me…..
…I’m a rich white guy, and I’m sick to my stomach thinking about it. I can’t imagine being a Muslim right now, or a woman, or an African-American, a Hispanic, a handicapped person, how disenfranchised they might feel. And for anyone in those groups that voted for him, it’s just beyond my comprehension how they ignore all that.
And so, my final conclusion is — my big fear is — we are Rome.”
That’s pretty damning stuff.
And it’s all somewhat recent for Popovich – not the liberal beliefs, but the willingness to speak so publicly on them. In an absolutely terrific profile of Popovich’s rising political activism, the Washington Post’s Kent Babb writes:
“Over the years [Popovich] embraced his progressivism, the aging hippie who never stopped wanting to fight the power, though for a long time he did so quietly. He made donations to Democratic causes and candidates, but last year he began displaying his leanings more publicly.”
Popovich has made 13 donations to Democratic candidates and committees since 2003, according to a donor database maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics. That includes almost $23,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $5,000 to then-President Barack Obama.
And it bears mentioning that Popovich went to the Air Force Academy and worked overseas as an intelligence officer.
“He looks at being in basketball as a wonderful job, but an inconsequential one within the grand scheme of things,” Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post wrote in an email.
“He believes people should be treated a certain way, and that life should be lived a certain way. He isn’t willing to compromise that for anyone – up to, and including, the President of the United States.”
Christine Brennan, a longtime USA Today columnist and CNN contributor, suggested that Popovich’s outspokenness may come to be the new normal.
“In the Michael Jordan-Tiger Woods era, we got used to athletes and coaches toeing the company line, playing it safe at every turn,” she told me via email. “But the election of Donald Trump has changed that, and Gregg Popovich is the leading example so far in the sports world. Athletes and coaches are finding their voice in a way that is reminiscent of the ’60s. This makes sense because sports are no longer an escape from the real world but much more a mirror of our society. Because Trump is so controversial, it makes sense to me that people from all walks of life, including sports, are speaking out.”
One note: Popovich is the head coach of the U.S. men’s basketball team. Which means that Trump will be president and Popovich will be coaching the country’s highest profile sports team during the 2020 Summer Olympics. Talk about must-see TV!