Gregg Popovich — the outspoken, far-left coach of the San Antonio Spurs — once again veered away from the subject of basketball and delved into sociopolitical and historical commentary in front of reporters.
During a press conference prior to a preseason game last week, KSAT-TV reported that Popovich was asked about President Joe Biden recognizing Indigenous Peoples' Day, which took place Monday alongside Columbus Day.
With that, the 72-year-old coach — in a subdued rant lasting over two minutes — likened Columbus to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and ripped the city of San Antonio as "backward" for having school districts that still observe Columbus Day.
What did Popovich say?
"It's way overdue for our country. and I would think there are a lot of people very happy about it," Popovich said regarding Biden's Indigenous Peoples' Day recognition, adding that "the proclamation was obviously appropriate, important, needed, and all those sorts of things, but I'm a little confused about our city and why it's Indigenous Peoples Day/Columbus Day."
The coach continued: "Columbus? I mean, he initiated a new world genocide. That's what he did. And beginning with him and what he set in motion and what followed meant the annihilation of every indigenous person in Hispaniola, which was Haiti and the Dominican Republic today. That's what he did. He took slaves. He mutilated. He murdered. And we're gonna say say 'slash' and honor him?"
With that Popovich gave the San Antonio Independent School District "a little bit of credit" for adding Indigenous Peoples' Day alongside Columbus Day — and then blasted nearby Alamo Heights Independent School District for observing Columbus Day only.
"But what the hell is Alamo Heights thinkin'?" he asked. "It's Columbus Day. That's why they're off on Monday? You know, maybe there's something I'm missing, and I'm ignorant, but it makes me feel like they're living in a phone booth, and they're educating our kids. Columbus Day? And we're gonna honor that?"
While angrily saying his criticism of Columbus Day isn't a "knock on Italian-Americans," Popovich likened Columbus to Hitler.
"That's a silly argument," he continued. "You know, it's like saying we should be proud of Hitler because we're German. I mean, it makes no sense. It's about Columbus. It's not about Italian-Americans. And so there are a lot of states that have come out and scratched the Columbus Day and made it Indigenous Peoples' Day."
Then Popovich ripped San Antonio as "backward."
"But in our city, are we that backward that we have school districts that do that?" he asked. "I'm amazed. Just amazed."
How did folks react?
Twitter users had no mercy on Popovich for his comments. Here's a sampling:
- "Anyone notice about the time this guy went looney and became a political pundit the Spurs went to s**t?!" one commenter asked.
- "He is a true idiot. Maybe he needs to get the hell of this country," another user said. "Pathetic hypocrite just like the mentally deranged Biden."
- "Well I'm from Alamo Heights, and we vaguely remember Gregg Popovich. Wasn't he a contender at one time? A coach who made a difference on the basketball court?" another commenter mocked. "We're hoping he moves on soon and hopefully not into politics because his left-of-center ideology is getting old."
- "Stick with coaching, Pop, and stay out of politics," another user suggested. "And shave that beard. You've been a woke lefty ever since you grew it."
- "I miss the days when coaches thought of themselves as coaches and not enlightened influencers," another commenter said.
Haven't we seen this movie before?
Popovich sounding off sociopolitically isn't a new phenomenon:
- In the wake of George Floyd's 2020 death in the hands of Minneapolis police, Popovich said he was "embarrassed as a white person" and that America "is in trouble, and the basic reason is race."
- In 2019, he called then-President Donald Trump a "cowardly," "impotent" leader compared to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver amid the league's strained relationship with China.
- Just before the 2018 midterm elections, Popovich wore a "BETO" hat and admitted he was endorsing Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke in his United States Senate race against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R).
- In March 2018, Popovich questioned the usefulness of the Second Amendment: "Does it serve its purpose the way it was supposed to do in the beginning? That discussion should be had. Is one life more important than some congressman keeping his position because he's afraid he won't get funds from the NRA? It's a dereliction of duty on the part of everybody around Trump."
- During Black History Month in 2018, Popovich said "we live in a racist country."
- In October 2017, Popovich called Trump a "soulless coward" and a "pathological liar" after the president said he'd been calling wounded soldiers when past presidents hadn't.
- Popovich in September 2017 said "our country is an embarrassment in the world" following Trump's criticisms of NFL players who took a knee for the national anthem. He also called attention to the president's "childishness and the gratuitous fear-mongering and race-baiting [that] has been so consistent that it's almost expected."
- Days after the 2016 presidential election, he said Trump's victory made him ill.