In a pregame press conference about an hour before his team played the Phoenix Suns at Mexico City Arena on Saturday evening, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said there was little that sports teams or leagues could do to improve relations between the United States and Mexico in the aftermath of a U.S. presidential election in which those relations had been a major issue.
“Considering our political situation right now, I’m not sure the NBA has a lot to say or can do much to decide what’s going to happen between Mexico and the United States,” said Popovich, whose pregame remarks were made available to the Rivard Report via audio file from NBA media relations.
“The NBA has always stood for equality and justice, and whether that’s a racial situation, or LGBT concerns, [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver has always been out at the forefront of that,” he continued. “When asked, all of us feel free and obligated to give our opinions, when appropriate. Some of us have already done that this year about our election, and that sort of thing. We’ll speak our mind when asked, if it’s an appropriate setting, but I’m not sure that the NBA is going to get involved directly in relations between Mexico and the United States. I don’t think Mr. Trump is going to ask.”
Indeed, Popovich made clear his feelings about the United States presidential election after Donald Trump was elected, saying the nature of his campaign made him “sick to my stomach,” and decrying comments that he said were “xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic.”
The Spurs vs. Suns game was part of the NBA’s Global Games initiative that has exported both pre-season and regular season games to other countries, including England and China. The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Suns at Mexico City Arena on Thursday, and the Denver Nuggets defeated the Indiana Pacers in London, also on Thursday.
As coach of a team that has had more international players than any NBA team, Popovich embraces the opportunity to expose the Spurs to games in other countries.
“I don’t think it’s just important,” he said. “I think it’s great fun for us, for fans. It’s a global game now. It’s played everywhere, as we all now. It’s very popular, so playing these games helps promote that and helps the game grow, in a lot of ways, from the grass roots.
“I enjoy travel, my coaches do. Obviously, our players have been from everywhere for the last decade or two. It’s just part of what the NBA does. It’s part of what I believe in, as far as making up a team, so it’s all good. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like.”
Asked if he had a preference for a next venue for the Spurs if the team were to be asked to participate in another Global Games initiative, he joked that his personal preference would be for either Positano, Italy, or anywhere in France’s Provence.