Gregg Popovich on Racism, Police Brutality: 'The System Has to Change'

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Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich opened up about the widespread demonstrations across the country against police brutality in an interview with Dave Zirin of The Nation.

George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died last Monday in Minneapolis police custody after an officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for several minutes, even as Floyd said he couldn't breathe. Officer Derek Chauvin, who was fired from his job, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Friday. The three other officers present, also fired, have not been arrested. Floyd's killing sparked outrage and protests across the country.

Popovich, who has been outspoken in the past about racism, was one of the coaches named to the National Basketball Coaches Association's new committee on racial injustice and reform within NBA cities. 

“The thing that strikes me is that we all see this police violence and racism and we’ve seen it all before but nothing changes,” Popovich said. “That’s why these protests have been so explosive. But without leadership and an understanding of what the problem is, there will never be change. And white Americans have avoided reckoning with this problem forever because it’s been our privilege to be able to avoid it. That also has to change.”

Popovich is among a long list of athletes, teams and coaches that have spoken out in recent days about Floyd's killing. In his interview with Zirin, the five-time NBA champion coach also sharply criticized President Donald Trump. 

“It’s so clear what needs to be done," Popovich added. "We need a president to come out and say simply that ‘black lives matter.’ Just say those three words. But he won’t and he can’t. He can’t because it’s more important to him to mollify the small group of followers who validate his insanity. But it’s more than just Trump. The system has to change. I’ll do whatever I can do to help, because that’s what leaders do. But he can’t do anything to put us on a positive path, because he’s not a leader."

A call will be scheduled with all 30 head coaches to discuss how the committee can start moving forward with action in the league's cities, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.