Why Gregg Popovich is such a powerful critic of Donald Trump
One of the NBA‘s most respected figures just lit into Donald Trump — again.
It’s definitely not the first time Gregg Popovich, a five-time NBA champ with the San Antonio Spurs, has done this. And it’s almost certainly not the last.
We’ll soon get to why Popovich’s criticism carries more weight than it might seem at first blush — but first, his latest monologue. It’s a doozy.
“I feel like there’s a cloud, a pall over the whole country, in a paranoid, surreal sort of way,” Trump said on Sunday before the Spurs lost to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of their NBA Playoffs series. “It’s got nothing to do with the Democrats losing the election. It’s got to do with the way one individual conducts himself, and it’s embarrassing, it’s dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be. But for this individual, he’s in a game show.”
A day after the fact, that transcript was still flying around social media after first getting shared among basketball fans then breaking into the news cycle at large.
Pop isn’t just some coach trying to throw his weight around the political arena, though. Here are four reasons why his words carry more weight than your average sports celebrity.
He knows his politics
Recall this piece of Popovich’s Sunday quote: “… it’s dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be.”
The same day, former director of national intelligence James Clapper told CNN that “our institutions are under assault internally” from President Trump.
The very well-read Pop came with receipts, as the kids like to say.
He’s massively respected in sports
Popovich is universally regarded as one of the most decent, intelligent human beings in sports. He’s an absolute coaching legend with five title rings.
In other words, he knows something about leadership and, to employ one of Trump’s favorite phrases, winning.
He’s the coach of Team USA
Yup, you read that right. In addition to helming the Spurs, Popovich is the current head coach of USA Basketball. So yes, that is the USA basketball coach directly rebuking the American president. Interesting dynamic — and doubly so given how outspoken many of the NBA’s top players have been against Trump as well.
He’s a military man
It’s not something he talks about often, but Popovich actually graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and served five years of active duty in the 1970s. So Popovich is not just some pontificator moralizing from the heights of Mount Celebrity, as many Trump defenders like to paint the president’s critics.
Trump, of course, is famous for lashing out against those who say rude things about him. The bad news here, though: If Trump would like to throw his support behind the Warriors as some sort of petty get-back, Golden State coach Steve Kerr is another outspoken critic of the administration.
It’s hard to separate politics from sports, or from anything, in 2017 — and there’s a reason NBA fans are only half-joking when they lobby for Pop and Kerr to run for president in 2020.