February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada. Before Thursday night’s matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News asked Gregg Popovich what the annual observance means to him.
As has often been the case of late when asked for his view on political and social topics beyond the boundaries of the hardwood — like the election of President Donald Trump in November, last month’s Women’s March following Trump’s inauguration, the administration’s introduction of “alternative facts” into the national discourse and the chaotic rollout of the executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S., for example — the San Antonio Spurs head coach spoke freely, and at some length.
You can hear Pop’s full three-minute response about the importance of reckoning with what America has done to, and hasn’t done for, black people right here:
… or you can read it, courtesy of Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com:
Well, it’s a remembrance, and a bit of a celebration in some ways. 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.
But more than anything, I think if people take the time to think about it, I think it 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 the sense that when you talk about opportunity, it’s not about, “Well, if you lace up your shoes and you work hard, then you can have the American dream.” That’s a bunch of hogwash.
If you were born white, you automatically have a monstrous advantage — educationally, economically, culturally, in this society and all the systemic roadblocks that exist, whether it’s in a judicial sense, 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. It’s a tough one because people don’t really want to face it.
And it’s in our national discourse. We have a president of the United States [Donald Trump] who spent four or five years disparaging and trying to [de]legitimize our president [Barack Obama]. And we know that was a big fake. But still, [he] felt for some reason it had to be done. I can still remember a paraphrase close to a quote “investigators were sent to Hawaii and you cannot believe what they found.” Well, that was a lie. So if it’s being discussed and perpetrated at that level, you’ve got a national problem.
I think that’s enough.
For some watchers/readers/listeners who don’t agree with his politics, Popovich’s remarks might have gone past “enough” to “too much.” For others, it might not be “enough,” but a prominent white public figure in a heavily black sport acknowledging institutional racism and white privilege as real issues that the United States needs to address likely still represents a good start to a serious and important discussion.
Either way, it seems pretty safe to say Coach Pop took a different path to beginning Black History Month than the president did.
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