Spurs’ Popovich calls for change, dismisses Trump as ‘divisive fool’

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San Antonio Spurs basketball coach Gregg Popovich has been a longtime critic of the US president. AFP

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has called out US President Donald Trump for a lack of leadership in the face of nationwide unrest set off by the killing of unarmed African American George Floyd last week.

Popovich, a longtime critic of Trump, told weekly magazine The Nation that unresolved issues of police violence and racism in the US had set the stage for the violence that has raged in numerous cities and towns for three straight nights.

He said: “The thing what strikes me is that we all see this police violence and racism and we’ve seen it all before but nothing changes.

“That’s why these protests have been so explosive. But without leadership and an understanding of what the problem is, there will never be change. And white Americans have avoided reckoning with this problem forever because it’s been our privilege to be able to avoid it. That also has to change.”

Popovich said that Trump was “not just divisive. He’s a destroyer”.

“I’m appalled that we have a leader who can’t say: ‘Black Lives Matter,’” Popovich said. “In the end, what we have is a fool in place of a president, while the person who really runs the country, Senator Mitch McConnell, destroys the United States for generations to come.”

Popovich was among numerous NBA head coaches and assistant coaches who signed a statement from the National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA) saying they felt duty bound to speak out for those who don’t feel they can.

The statement said: “The events of the past few weeks – police brutality, racial profiling and the weaponisation of racism are shameful, inhumane and intolerable.

“As a diverse group of leaders, we have a responsibility to stand up and speak out for those who don’t have a voice – and to stand up and speak out for those who don’t feel it is safe to do so.”

ESPN reported that the NBCA had established a committee of current and former coaches who will work with local leaders and law enforcement for change following Floyd’s death, which came after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes.

An official autopsy report released on Monday by the Hennepin County medical examiner in Minneapolis said that Floyd died in a homicide involving “neck compression”.

That report came after a lawyer for Floyd’s family said an independent autopsy found he died of asphyxiation from sustained pressure.

“In other words, he was murdered,” tweeted Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who has along with Popovich has been tapped to serve on the committee along with Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, former New York Knicks coach David Fizdale and former coach Steve Van Gundy, reported ESPN.

The coaches’ statement said: “We are committed to working in our NBA cities with local leaders, officials and law enforcement agencies to create positive change in our communities.

“We have the power and platform to affect change, and we will use it.”