Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stood up for Sebastien de la Cruz, an 11-year-old raised in San Antonio who was the subject of racist tweets following his national anthem performance before Game 3 of the Finals on Tuesday.
"I would like to say that I would be shocked or surprised by the comments," Popovich said Thursday during his pregame press conference before Game 4. "But given the fact that there's still a significant element of bigotry and racism in our nation, I'm not surprised. It still plagues us, obviously. And what I was surprised by was how proud these idiots are of their ignorance, by printing their names next to their comments."
The Spurs invited de la Cruz -- who advanced to the semifinals on America's Got Talent -- back to sing the national anthem again for Game 4. He performed on Tuesday wearing a Mariachi outfit that bore the Spurs' silver and black color scheme and only sang the anthem because Darius Rucker, of Hootie & the Blowfish fame, was reportedly stuck in traffic.
"He's a class act," Popovich said of de la Cruz, who is in fifth grade. "Way more mature than most his age. And as much as those comments by the idiots sadden you about your country, he makes you feel that the future could be very bright."
The San Antonio Express-News reported that de la Cruz addressed the racist messages on Wednesday.
“With the racism remarks, to be honest, it's just the people how they were raised," he said, according to the paper. "My father and my mother told me that you should never judge people by how they look. You should judge them on the inside. And the saying that I go by is never judge a book by its cover.”
San Antonio's Mayor Julian Castro also expressed support for de la Cruz on his Facebook page.
"I'm proud of our young San Antonio superstar Sebastien de la Cruz for a spectacular rendition of our national anthem at last night's Spurs game," Castro said. "Sebastien, don't let a few negative voices get you down. You are a true talent and you represent the best of our nation's future!"
The New York Daily News collected a number of the offensive messages.
The Spurs hold a 2-1 series lead over the Heat
in the Finals.