Jul. 15, 2015
Spurs' Popovich: Whites Can't Understand The Issues Blacks Face
Despite his typically humorous, curt responses when questioned by reporters, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich offered quite a thoughtful response when questioned on the state of race relations in our country during a press conference last week.
“Race is the elephant in the room in our country,” he said when asked for his thoughts on what’s going on in the country. “The social situation that we’ve all experienced is absolutely disgusting in a lot of ways.”
The five-time NBA title-winning coach did not shy away from speaking specifically about the nuance involved in issues of police brutality and racial discrimination.
“It’s difficult for many white people to understand the day-to-day feeling that many black people have to deal with. It’s not just a rogue policeman, or a policeman exerting too much force or power...At this point, when somebody like Kaepernick brings attention to this, it makes people have to face the issue because it’s too easy to let it go because it’s not their daily experience.”
He goes on to say that “there’s something that’s wrong” with many African-American families, including some of his friends, having to speak to their kids in detail about how to act in front of a policeman, something that white families may not concern themselves with because of the lack of potentially fatal ramifications for slight misbehaviors.
Unlike many coaches that have come out against players kneeling during the national anthem to bring attention to these issues, Coach Popovich realizes that Kaepernick’s and other’s protests having nothing to do with the military and are in fact a direct result of what our military does for us: secures our 1st amendment right to freedom of speech.
However, Popovich suggested that these protests may not be as effective at creating change as political pressure, citing Martin Luther King’s organization of bus boycotts in pursuit of civil rights or companies, including the NBA, pulling events out of North Carolina to emphasize their opposition of the state’s controversial HB2 bill. But even the intelligent, legendary coach was at a loss as to what the end solution to problems of racial injustice in America may be.
“What’s the solution? Nobody has figured it out,” he admits. “But for sure, the conversation has to stay fresh, it has to stay continuous, it has to be persistent, and we all have a responsibility to make sure that happens in our communities.”
Coach Popovich represents the perspective that I badly wish many Americans shared. Demonstrating understanding of an issue that doesn’t affect you and showing sympathy for those that is does affect is a great way to convince people to avoid close-mindedness and observe the world around them with an open heart. And with the amount of respect Pop has among the NBA community and basketball fans around the country, one can only think that his words have served to open the minds of at least some people who have previously refused to acknowledge the existence of racial inequality.
An open discourse is key to resolving any issue, no matter how broad or specific it may be. As more and more famous names in the world of sports speak out about the social injustices many black Americans face, I hope the country-wide discussion will shift from whether or not there are issues to what we can be done to solve them.
(Sope Eweje, hails from North Carolina, where basketball is king. He is a student at MIT, and is studying bio-mechanical engineering. You can him on Facebook (Basically Basketball) and Twitter (@basicallybball.)