Gregg Popovich respects 'courage' of athletes protesting national anthem


Gregg Popovich doesn't always like to talk — just ask any reporter. But when he does decide to share his opinion in more than one-word bursts, it's always worth listening to what he has to say.

As part of Spurs media day, the legendary coach addressed the growing number of athletes following Colin Kaepernick's lead in protesting the national anthem. He said something more thoughtful than whatever it is you're going to hear during Monday night's presidential debate.

PHOTOS: National anthem protests around sports

"I absolutely understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and I respect their courage for what they’ve done," Popovich said via the San Antonio Express-News. "The question is whether it will do any good or not because it seems that change really seems to happen through political pressure, no matter how you look at it. Whether it’s Dr. [Martin Luther] King getting large groups together and boycotting buses, or what’s happened in Carolina with the NBA and other organizations pulling events to make it known what’s going on.

"But I think the important thing that Kaepernick and others have done is to keep it in the conversation. When’s the last time you heard the name Michael Brown? With our 24/7 news, things seem to drift. We’re all trying to just exist and survive."

Popovich has a

unique perspective in that he sees through the lens of someone in the professional sports world and someone with a military background. He served five years in the Air Force and once considered a career with the Central Intelligence Agency. Yet he displayed empathy in acknowledging his life experiences are much different from those in the African-American community.

"I don’t think a condemnation of any sort of act should happen until it’s thought out," Popovich said. "For instance, with Kaepernick, a pretty good group of people immediately thought he was disrespecting the military. It had nothing to do with his protest. In fact, he was able to do what he did because of what the military does for us.

"Most thinking people understand that, but there’s always going to be an element that wants to jump on a bandwagon, and that’s what’s unfortunate about our country. It’s gotten to a point where the civility and the level of discourse is basically in the gutter."

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In terms of his own team, Popovich said Spurs players can make their own personal decisions and won't punish them because that would be "ignorant."

When you are this insightful about a complex social issue, basketball must be pretty easy.

Check out Popovich's full responses over at the San Antonio Express-News.