As I pointed out the other day, Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is one of the most outspoken people in the NBA. He routinely pops off about gun control, racism, President Trump and whatever else is on his mind. So it was curious that in the midst of all the controversy over the NBA’s reaction to social media statements supporting freedom in Hong Kong, Popovich seemed to be quiet. Yesterday, Popovich came forward to praise the NBA Commissioner’s “courageous” stance. He also managed to get in a shot at President Trump:
“He’s been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous,” Popovich told reporters at the Spurs-Miami Heat preseason game Tuesday. “Compared to what we’ve had to live through the last three years, there’s a big difference gap there leadership-wise and courage-wise.”…
“It wasn’t easy for him to say,” Popovich said. “He said that in an environment that is fraught with possible economic peril. He sides with the principles that we all hold dearly — or most of us did until the last three years — so I’m thrilled with what he said. The courage and leadership displayed is off the charts by comparison.
“We’ve heard about all the questions the talking heads have for the last three years: What kind of country do we want to be? Who are we? Where do we want to go? That sort of thing. Adam said something that helps you understand what direction you need to go in rather than the cowardice of not being able to respond to something like the murder of Mr. (Jamal) Khashoggi. There are many, many incidents like that where leadership and courage mean nothing (and) it’s all about personal aggrandizement.”
What an absolute dumpster fire this answer is. All the NBA Commissioner said what that he would not attempt to regulate, “what players, employees and team owners say.” That’s good so far as it goes, but what about the underlying issue that kicked off this entire firestorm? As Guy Benson pointed out, Popovich doesn’t say one word about China or freedom in Hong Kong in this little speech. He completely avoids the subject:
Popovich praises *Commissioner Silver’s* “courage” to the hilt here, repeatedly contrasting him w/ Trump. Nothing in this clip on whether he agrees w/ Morey on Hong Kong, or has any thoughts at all on China’s serial abuses. The real villain in his framing is POTUS, not Beijing. https://t.co/f3G96lIemO
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 9, 2019
And it’s worth noting that Popovich’s refusal to touch on the actual controversy didn’t go unnoticed. Check out the responses on the NBA subreddit. Sample comment: “You can see how much courage Silver had by how Popovich didn’t mention China once.”
As for the comparison with the death of Jamal Khashoggi, I’m under no illusions about what happened there. Popovich apparently believes President Trump should have responded more forcefully to Saudi Arabia after the murder, though he doesn’t say how. Fair enough. But if the moral of the Khashoggi murder is that you need to bravely confront human rights abusers, why isn’t Popovich showing us how it’s done? Why doesn’t he display some of the leadership he claims the president is lacking by calling for freedom in Hong Kong? Couldn’t he at least say he support the comments made by Daryl Morey?
Popovich is a hypocrite, just like fellow coach Steve Kerr who said he needed to phone a friend before he could decide whether freedom and respect for human rights are superior to communist dictatorship. Maybe if Kerr and Popovich get together for a long lunch they can think through this and get back to us with an answer. But don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.
Jason Whitlock’s nailed it in his appearance on Fox Sports yesterday. “Cut it out NBA, Adam Silver, Steve Kerr. You’re not social justice activists. You’re business people because when China tells you to shut the hell up, everybody shuts the hell up,” Whitlock said. And Gregg Popovich just proved Whitlock right.
.@WhitlockJason calls out the NBA for not being real about their controversy with China
"Cut it out NBA, Adam Silver, Steve Kerr. You're not social justice activists. You're business people because when China tells you to shut the hell up, everybody shuts the hell up." pic.twitter.com/XsJd13by35
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) October 8, 2019