Gregg Popovich’s thoughts and musings on race in America — or nearly any topic, to be honest — were never meant for Twitter. To say “Gregg Popovich knocks NFL, Roger Goodell” is to vastly oversimplify his thoughts.
Which is why an extended interview in the New York Times with columnist Maureen Dowd is a better format — and Popovich did rip the NFL and Goodell. But he also questioned himself and what he thought he knew.
“Especially if you’re a white coach and you’re coaching a group that’s largely black, you’d better gain their trust, you’d better be genuine, you’d better understand their situation,” he tells me. “You’d better understand where they grew up. Maybe there’s a black kid from a prep school. Maybe there’s another black kid who saw his first murder when he was 7 years old…”
But in recent calls with the Spurs’ players and staff he has been amazed at the level of hurt. “It would bring you to tears,” he says, his voice cracking. “It’s even deeper than you thought, and that’s what really made me start to think: You’re a privileged son of a bitch and you still don’t get it as much as you think you do. You gotta work harder. You gotta be more aware. You gotta be pushed and embarrassed. You’ve gotta call it out.”
Popovich, a former Air Force officer, had ripped President Donald Trump before, and said he thought the NFL’s response to Colin Kaepernick kneeling was out of fear of the president’s response.
“A smart man is running the NFL and he didn’t understand the difference between the flag and what makes the country great — all the people who fought to allow Kaepernick to have the right to kneel for justice. The flag is irrelevant. It’s just a symbol that people glom onto for political reasons just like Cheney back in the Iraq war…
“[Goodell] got intimidated when Trump jumped on the kneeling.”
Popovich is genuine and authentic, plus he works to empathize with people. It’s a skill not enough politicians work to hone.