‘Embarrassed’ Popovich: Our country is in trouble

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the “country is in trouble” and he’s “embarrassed as a white person” to know that George Floyd could die in such a horrific way as a police officer with a knee on Floyd’s neck went about his job in such a “nonchalant … casual” manner.

“In a strange, counterintuitive sort of way, the best teaching moment of this recent tragedy, I think, was the look on the officer’s face,” Popovich said in an emotional video released by the Spurs as part of their #SpursVoices series on social media. “For white people to see how nonchalant, how casual, just how everyday-going-about-his job, so much so that he could just put his left hand in his pocket, wriggle his knee around a little bit to teach this person some sort of a lesson — and that it was his right and his duty to do it, in his mind.

“I don’t know. … I think I’m just embarrassed as a white person to know that that can happen. To actually watch a lynching. We’ve all seen books, and you look in the books and you see black people hanging off of trees. And you … are amazed. But we just saw it again. I never thought I’d see that, with my own eyes, in real time.”

Floyd, who is black, died in Minneapolis on May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, while three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

“It’s like the neighborhood where you know there’s a dangerous corner, and you know that something’s going to happen someday, and nobody does anything,” Popovich said. “And then a young kid gets killed and a stop sign goes up. Well, without getting too political, we’ve got a lot of stop signs that need to go up — quickly — because our country is in trouble. And the basic reason is race.”

Popovich, 71, said it’s up to white people to step up — “no matter what the consequences” — and help lead the charge for change.

“We have to do it. Black people have been shouldering this burden for 400 years,” Popovich said. “The only reason this nation has made the progress it has is because of the persistence, patience and effort of black people. The history of our nation from the very beginning in many ways was a lie, and we continue to this day, mostly black and brown people, to try to make that lie a truth so that it is no longer a lie. And those rights and privileges are enjoyed by people of color, just like we enjoy them. So it’s got to be us, in my opinion, that speak truth to power, and call it out, no matter what the consequences. We have to speak. We have to not let anything go.”

Popovich compared the current crisis in our country to that of gun violence.

“It’s just a situation that is very similar to me,” he said. “… What’s it going to take? Two few more black people with knees in their necks? I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s going to happen. How many more Sandy Hooks do we have to have? It’s easy for people to let things go, because it doesn’t involve them.”