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Gregg Popovich speaks on racism, reparations, and NBA bubble in first media availability since March

The Spurs head coach and noted activist spoke for a half hour, saying, "we have an opportunity to do something transformative if we have the courage."

SAN ANTONIO — When Gregg Popovich spoke to the assembled media for the first time since the NBA halted play, the only thing he said about basketball was that he hasn't thought about it much at all in the last four months.

"We talked to the players we did our Zooms and tried to stay in touch that way, but as far as basketball is concerned, it was quite unimportant," Popovich said.

The rest of the questions centered on those more important issues that Pop has been outspoken on for years, namely racism and inequality.

"It's a seminal moment in the sense that we have an opportunity to do something transformative if we have the courage. As with many things in today's world, interest wanes pretty quickly no matter what the topic," he said.

"In this particular situation, talking about racism, its been talked about many many times over centuries, and this is where we are. The league the players the coaches the staff, everybody is very committed to keeping it up front in everybody's consciousness, even though everybody's excited to go play, this is a great opportunity to make sure that we maintain the momentum, because that's what it takes. It was the same way with voting rights, which of course are now in danger, and the LGBT movement, no matter what progress has been made, it’s always been because of pressure. It didn’t happen because people just said, ‘yeah, we’re gonna do this. People, governments, politicians were forced into doing things,” he said. 

The team was set to get back together for the first time since March on Saturday afternoon, and Pop said racial justice is key in that 'together,' and always has been.

"When we meet for the first time this afternoon after this hiatus, for my team it won't be any different than what we've already been doing for a long time. This isn't a new emphasis for us. For the last two decades, it has been in the forefront of how we approach creating a family, developing trust and understanding, and moving on from there," he said. 

As outspoken as he's been on these issues, the 71-year-old coach says he's still learning. 

"Even for people like myself who sort of think we have a good feel for the injustice and the inequity, we didn't know crap, and mostly it's an educational thing," he said.

"I had no idea that from the end of the Civil War to about 1950, (there were) 6,500 lynchings. That's hard to fathom," he said.

Popovich recommended reading Nikole Hannah-Jones' story in the New York Times Magazine, and called for reparations.

"A lot of cities are talking about the eight that can't wait as far as policing is concerned, and that's all great, but we need to get to the point where on multiple levels, actions are being taken, sure with the police, especially police unions. But more than that, we have to get to the reparations discussion," he said.

As he often does, he called on white people to make themselves uncomfortable about race. 

"It's impossible in my mind for we white people to accept wealth, privilege, when we know, when the virus has made it so obvious how unfair, how cruel the system has been. You can't go on and enjoy your life if you don't understand what has happened to so many," he said.

"I don't have all the answers, obviously, but of course it's frustrating. But think about how frustrating it is for black people. So, my frustration is totally meaningless. My frustration has to be turned into taking every opportunity that arises to call out what needs to be called out in that regard. And basically, take no prisoners, so to speak. We're talking 400 years here. We're talking people that are in their 30s and 40s, and are scared to death for their children," he said.

On the topic of the NBA's bubble, he said that he trusted the plan put in place by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and said he feels safer at Disney than he would in Texas.

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