Continuing his commitment to social and political discourse, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Thursday weighed in on the importance of Black History Month, which began Wednesday.
His remarks, made during his press conference that preceded the Spurs game at AT&T Center against the Philadelphia 76ers, included a reminder of President Donald Trump’s role in asserting that his predecessor in the oval office, Barack Obama, the first black president, was not born in the United States.
Popovich said Black History Month is a time for reflection and celebration, but he also said it’s a reminder that racism remains in the U.S.
“It’s a remembrance and a bit of a celebration, in some ways,” Popovich said. “It sounds odd, because we’re not there yet. But, it’s always important to remember what has passed and what is being experienced now by the black population. It’s a celebration of some of the good things that have happened and a reminder that there’s a lot more work to do.
“More than anything, I think if people take the time to think about it, I think [racism] is our national sin.
“It always intrigues me when people come out with, ‘I’m tired of talking about that,’ or, ‘Do we have to talk about race again?’ And the answer is: you’re damned right we do. Because, it’s always there and it’s systemic, in a sense that when you talk about opportunity it’s not about, ‘Well, if you lace up your shoes and you work hard you can have the American dream.’
“That’s a bunch of hogwash,” said the Spurs coach, born into a blue-collar family in East Chicago, Indiana, in 1949. “If you were born white you automatically have a monstrous advantage – educationally, economically, culturally – within the society and all the systemic roadblocks that exist, in a judicial sense, or a neighborhood sense with laws, zoning, education. We have huge problems in that regard that are very complicated, but take leadership, time, and real concern to try to solve. And it’s a tough one because people really don’t want to face it. And, it’s in our national discourse.”
Popovich has been candid, both in his criticism of Trump’s election and some of his actions that have followed his inauguration, on Jan. 20. On this occasion, he criticized Trump’s past insistence, long held but since recanted, that Obama had not been born in the U.S.
“We have a president of the United States who spent four or five years disparaging and trying to delegitimize our president. We know that was a big fake, but he still felt for some reason it had to be done,” Popovich said. “I can still remember, paraphrase close to a quote: ‘Investigators went to Hawaii and you cannot believe what they found.’
“Well, that was a lie, and if it’s being discussed and perpetrated at that level, you’ve got a national problem.”