SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt discusses the efforts of Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon who recently joined the protests taking place in Atlanta following the death of George Floyd.


San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has a long history of speaking out on social issues and criticizing Donald Trump. Saturday, he added the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell and several team owners to his list of targets during an interview with the New York Times.

Popovich criticized the NFL for failing to mention Colin Kaepernick’s name when it apologized to players over not supporting their protests during the national anthem. He also said Goodell had been “intimidated” when Trump took a stance against players kneeling to protest police brutality.

Popovich said it was hypocritical to come out in support of protests while giving money to Trump, as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had done for the president’s inauguration.

Wow, wow, wow. Gregg Popovich, in an interview with @maureendowd, this time goes after the NFL, and some of their owners. He calls Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones hypocrites. (And of course, the usual Trump criticism baked in.)

— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) June 13, 2020

He added that it was important to speak out on injustices to relate to the largely Black populations of the NBA and NFL.

“Especially if you’re a white coach and you’re coaching a group that’s largely Black, you’d better gain their trust, you’d better be genuine, you’d better understand their situation,” Popovich told the Times. “You’d better understand where they grew up. Maybe there’s a Black kid from a prep school. Maybe there’s another Black kid who saw his first murder when he was 7 years old.”

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Joining recent remarks by NFL players Malcolm Jenkins and JJ Watt, Popovich said the protests had nothing to do with the flag or the anthem, a frequent misconception espoused by Trump and other opponents of the protests.

“A smart man is running the NFL and he didn’t understand the difference between the flag and what makes the country great,” Popovich said, adding, “The flag is irrelevant. It’s just a symbol people glom onto for political reasons.”

Popovich took a kinder view on NBA commissioner Adam Silver, saying of the league’s restart: “I’m just counting on Adam to make sure we’re all safe.”


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