Longtime NBA fans will realize that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t shy away from giving his ascerbic, condescending opinions about pretty much everything.
Usually, these remarks involve basketball. After Donald Trump became the nominee and eventually the president, thinks took a turn few could predict. And by few, I mean pretty much everyone who has ever followed Gregg Popovich.
Here’s a greatest hits collection from the Spurs longtime coach, who has shepherded the team to five NBA championships during his tenure:
September 2017: “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, all of those white families in Appalachia where jobs are disappearing into the ether, or those who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, they were born at the 50-meter-line of a of a 100-meter dash. Popovich, a multimillionaire, apparently believes every white person lives the same lifestyle he does. But whiteness isn’t even a real concept anyway, except it means you’re born with a 50-meter lead.
Later in September 2017: “Our country is an embarrassment in the world,” Popovich said when announcing his support for NFL players kneeling during the national anthem and the fact that the president rescinded a White House invitation to the Golden State Warriors after anti-Trump comments made by members of the team. “I thought it was comical that it was rescinded because they weren’t going to go any way… It’s like a sixth grader is going to have a party in his backyard and he finds out somebody might not come, so he disinvites them.” As for the anthem protesters, “Each one of them has the right and the ability to say what they would like to say and act the way they would like to act,” Popovich said.
October 2017, on Trump: “This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. … We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this president should be ashamed, because they know better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”
March, 2018: Popovich claims that the Second Amendment might not be “useful” anymore and that the president “brings out the dark side of human beings.”
Popovich’s chickens may be coming home to roost, however. An article published by The Washington Post this Monday detailed some fans who have ditched the team because of what they see as the coach’s dismissive and hyperbolic attitude toward the current administration.
“Not long ago, Cassandra Casanova would plan her weeks around the NBA playoff schedule. She would wear her San Antonio Spurs gear and spend days talking about her favorite team, dissecting its postseason matchup,” the article from Rick Maese reads. “Not this year.”
“I have no idea when the games are,” Casanova told the paper. “I could not care less.”
“I am completely turned off. After all those years supporting the team, and now I just have no interest,” Casanova added. “Popovich really messed up.”
Casanova ended up packing up all of her Spurs gear and selling it to Goodwill.
“I often curse Pop for doing what he did,” Bob Mulherin, a Spurs fan for over a quarter-century, said. “He insulted more than half of the Spurs’ fan base, and no sign whatsoever of an apology.”
“It is sad that Pop basically told my wife and my son and me for that matter that we were fools for supporting Donald Trump,” he added. “What happens when someone calls you a fool? You avoid them.”
So, how much does Popovich care? Predictably, his level of crap-giving equals zero.
“No, I don’t care about an article that anyone might write, except if you wrote one,” Popovich said, joking with a reporter. “The organization has never said a word about any opinion that I might have about anything, not one time.”
Part of Pop’s immunity comes from the fact that San Antonio proper is a blue puddle in the Texas electoral map, as is the nearby liberal paradise of Austin. The rest of the map, especially in the suburbs, is decidedly red and dotted with military bases. Those individuals don’t exactly take quite kindly to Popovich’s rhetoric and have placed increasing pressure on the club.
And while the organization hasn’t said anything about Pop’s rhetorical excesses yet, that doesn’t mean they won’t. A disappointing season combined with controversy over troublesome star Kawhi Leonard saw the Spurs in an unusually-low seventh seed for the NBA playoffs, where they find themselves down 2-0 to the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
So, yeah, that kind of rhetoric may have done just fine when Popovich was winning championships. When you get bounced out in the first round after a terrible season, however, one may reckon Spurs team executives may pull him aside one of these days. Whether that can bring back lost fans is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for sure: I don’t think he’s going to have to worry about turning down that visit to the White House.
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