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An emotional Popovich referred to former officer Derek Chauvin’s actions as a “lynching” and said white people must “speak truth to power” to help bring racial equality to the United States:
Popovich, a former active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force, has been a vocal critic of the lack of leadership from President Donald Trump.
The 71-year-old East Chicago, Indiana, native spoke with Dave Zirin of The Nation about the president Sunday.
“If Trump had a brain, even if it was 99 percent cynical, he would come out and say something to unify people,” Popovich said. “But he doesn’t care about bringing people together. Even now. That’s how deranged he is. It’s all about him. It’s all about what benefits him personally. It’s never about the greater good. And that’s all he’s ever been.”
His comments came amid worldwide protests in response to Floyd’s killing. Video showed Chauvin pinning Floyd facedown to the ground with his knee on the 46-year-old’s neck and back for nearly nine minutes as Floyd said repeatedly he couldn’t breathe and was in pain.
Chauvin and three other officers on the scene responding to an alleged forgery were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department one day after Floyd’s killing. Chauvin was arrested and charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Popovich, the head coach of the United States men’s basketball team, urged people to use this movement as a catalyst for change.
“It’s like the gun arguments. What’s it gonna take? Two more black people with knees in their necks?” he said Saturday. “… 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.”
Popovich is the winningest coach in NBA history with 1,442 victories between the regular season and the playoffs, and he’s led the Spurs to five championships.