San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’s “embarrassed as a white person” while addressing the death of George Floyd in an emotional video released by the team Saturday.
“It’s got to be us that speak truth to power, that call it out no matter the consequences,” said Popovich, lending his support to protests of police brutality and racial injustice. “We have to not let anything go. Our country is in trouble and the basic reason is race.”
Millions around the country, including sports figures, are protesting police brutality and racial injustice following Floyd’s death May 25 in Minneapolis. Floyd, a black man, died in police custody after an officer held his knee against Floyd’s throat for nearly nine minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers on the scene were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. All four officers were fired.
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“In a strange, counterintuitive sort of way, the best teaching moment of this most recent tragedy, I think, was the look on the officer’s face,” Popovich said. “For white people to see how nonchalant, how casual, just how everyday going about his job, so much so that he could just put his left hand in his pocket, wriggle his knee around a little bit to teach this person some sort of a lesson – and that it was his right and his duty to do it, in his mind.
“I don’t know. … I think I’m just embarrassed as a white person to know that that can happen. To actually watch a lynching. We’ve all seen books, and you look in the books and you see black people hanging off of trees. And you … are amazed. But we just saw it again. I never thought I’d see that, with my own eyes, in real time.”
The 71-year-old Popovich has been outspoken on political and social issues, notably calling out President Donald Trump as a “soulless coward” for his leadership style.
“Without getting too political, we’ve got a lot of stop signs that need to go up — quickly — because our country is in trouble,” Popovich said Saturday. “And the basic reason is race.
“Black people have been shouldering this burden for 400 years. The only reason this nation has made the progress it has is because of the persistence, patience and effort of black people. The history of our nation from the very beginning in many ways was a lie, and we continue to this day, mostly black and brown people, to try to make that lie a truth so that it is no longer a lie. And those rights and privileges are enjoyed by people of color, just like we enjoy them. So it’s got to be us, in my opinion, that speak truth to power, and call it out, no matter what the consequences. We have to speak. We have to not let anything go.”
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