Gregg Popovich — a United States Air Force Academy graduate and coach of USA Basketball’s national team — along with his assistant Becky Hammon became the latest people to choose to stand for the national anthem during the NBA’s restart.
Both wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts but became the first coaches in Orlando for the restart of the NBA season not to take a knee. Asked about why postgame, Popovich said (hat tip Marc Stein of the New York Times).
“I’d prefer to keep that to myself. Everybody has to make a personal decision. The league’s been great about that; everybody has the freedom to react any way they want”
Popovich, who has never shied away from speaking on political matters or criticizing President Donald Trump, had this to say about the fight for racial justice before the game, via Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio News-Express:
“With the events that we’ve all witnessed in this last year, it’s just logical and wise to try to keep that momentum, going and try to keep this on the front burner. Because it’s a national embarrassment. It keeps us from being the country we should be and the country that was promised to everyone. Nothing could be more poignant than to have all of the teams here all committed to making statements and letting it be known that this has got to change. And not just a little bit.”
Hammon stood with her arms on the shoulders of Spurs assistant Will Hardy and team point guard Patty Mills (both of whom kneeled).
Spurs’ players had their back. DeMar DeRozan said postgame:
“You know Pop speaks out. When it comes to Becky, she’s been [on the] front line, fighting for equality since I’ve been a fan of hers playing in the WNBA. So everybody has their own right of making a statement and you can’t vilify nobody for not doing what the other group is doing. I’m all for it.”
Orlando Magic big man Jonathan Issac became the first player to stand during the anthem, later saying his decision was tied to his religious beliefs and that Black Lives Matter was something expressed in the Gospel.