San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich responds to interview questions before the meal is served. Photo by Scott Ball.
San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich responds to interview questions. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich delivered scathing criticism of President Donald Trump’s administration and his recent comments on professional athletes at the team’s media day Monday.

“Our country is an embarrassment to the world,” Popovich said. “… 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.”

Trump, speaking at a rally in Huntsville, Ala. Friday, criticized NFL players for taking a knee during the national anthem, saying team owners should fire “the sons of bitches” who protest. Trump also took aim at Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry, disinviting the two-time NBA champion from visiting the White House via Twitter.

The Warriors released a statement following Trump’s remarks, accepting that “President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited.” The team instead said it would use the trip to Washington, D.C., to do community service and “celebrate equality, diversity, and inclusion” – values the organization says it embraces.

“I thought it was comical that it was rescinded because they weren’t going anyway,” Popovich said Monday, referring to the Warriors’ decision and Trump’s tweet. “It’s like a sixth grader’s going to have a party in his backyard and he finds out somebody might not come, so he disinvites him. But again, I think the behavior, although it’s disgusting, it’s also comical.”

A weekend of football turned into a weekend of NFL players protesting during the national anthem: some kneeled or raised fists, others stayed in the locker room during the anthem, and many locked arms with their teammates in a show of unity and solidarity. Several team owners stood arm-locked with their players.

Cowboys Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones, whose team played the Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz. Monday night, said Sunday that the national anthem is “not the place to do anything but honor the flag and everybody that’s given up a little for it.”

Dallas Morning News writer David Moore tweeted Monday that the Cowboys had not yet not determined what they would do during the anthem. “Arm in arm a possibility, but nothing concrete yet,” the tweet read.

On Monday night, Jones, his players, and his coaches locked arms and took a collective knee prior to the American flag being unfurled and the anthem being performed. The team stood on the sidelines as The Star-Spangled Banner played and some crowd members booed.

#FootballIsFamily the Cowboys’ Twitter later stated.

Trump on Monday spoke of the “tremendous solidarity for our flag and our country” during Sunday’s games.

“This is an individual who actually thought that when people held arms during the game, that they were doing it to honor the flag,” Popovich said. “That’s delusional. Absolutely delusional. But it’s what we have to live with.

“The childishness, and the gratuitous fear-mongering, and race-baiting has been so consistent, it’s almost expected. The bar has been lowered so far,” he added.

Popovich has repeatedly expressed his disappointment and disdain for the president, calling various comments and statements made by Trump prior to his November election, “xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic” during an interview in January. In May, amid the Western Conference Finals, Popovich said the new president’s comportment had cast “a pall over the whole country.” 

The president’s unexpected turn of attention and wrath toward professional athletes who express their views on issues such as racism, social inequality, and police shootings of unarmed black men, has proven to be a major distraction from the opening weeks of the NFL season and spilled over into the NBA.

Spurs players have “the right and ability to say what they would like to say and act the way they would like to act, and they have our full support,” Popovich said.

The Spurs open the preseason on Oct. 2 in Sacramento, Calif. against the Kings. The first home game will take place Friday, Oct. 6 at the AT&T Center.

Before moving to San Antonio in 2004, Hanna was a competitive rhythmic gymnast in her native Austria. She earned degrees from St. Mary’s University and the Texas State Graduate College before joining...