Gregg Popovich Ain’t Whitesplaining Shit and Neither Should You
The Spurs coach keeps it 100 at NBA Media Day
Too often this weekend in the assessment of the protests of racial and social inequities ignited by Colin Kaepernick and derided by Trump the buzzwords “unity” and “support” were tossed around like safe words. Players, analysts, owners, commentators and pundits—many of whom were white—uttered them at a breakneck pace on Sunday, as NFL teams locked arms in their pathetic, appeasing displays of camaraderie and togetherness.
To some, the terms were harmless descriptors of what’s needed during these treacherous times. But at their core, these utterances did little to enhance the movement that began last August, when Kaepernick was first photographed sitting out his teammates’ acknowledgment of the national anthem. If anything, they were counterintuitive and diluted the true meaning of protest. Protest is often about the absence of unity, and is meant to challenge an oppressive status quo. The act of locking arms lets the oppressive party off easy. It gives them power and jurisdiction in the one space where the fiber of their beliefs is supposed to be deconstructed, evaluated and confronted.
That notion appeared to be lost on a large majority of the white sports and media figures that attempted to empathize or engage with the true goal of the so-inaccurately-called “flag protests” in recent days.
Gregg Popovich, the immaculate coach of the San Antonio Spurs, was not one of them, evidenced by his presser at NBA Media Day on Monday.
Obviously, race is the elephant in the room. But, unless it is talked about, constantly, it’s not going to get better. You people get bored. ‘Oh, is it that again? Why do we have to talk about that again?’ Well, because it’s uncomfortable. And there has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change. Whether it’s the LGBT movement, or women’s suffrace or race. People have to be made to feel uncomfortable. Especially white people, because it makes us uncomfortable. We still have no clue of what being born white means.
Popovich commented specifically on white privilege and the status quo—“We have to give that up”—before ending his mini-speech, which you can watch below.
Gregg Popovich: ‘We still have no clue of what being born white means.’ pic.twitter.com/whTL7y4ktu
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 25, 2017
Take note of the coach’s word choice. Gone are the terms “unity,” “support,” and other vague endorsements of the resistance. Popovich, a rich white male with a military background, very directly assesses the widespread culture of deflection and tokenism that’s taken over mainstream media. Rather than hide behind his discomfort, Pop callously discards it, as if to say, What’s more important: a cushy interview? Or equality?
Popovich’s comments barely eclipsed the two-minute mark, and he spent the rest of his Monday afternoon hanging out and posing with rich athletes. But when given the opportunity, rather than cough up a precooked narrative or distance himself from the core issue at hand, Pop chose to meet it head on. And if he changed the mind of one white reporter or videographer in that room or fan watching at home, he did his job as an American. As a patriot.
Unity, at least in this country, is something that needs to be achieved, not randomly conjured for the benefit of corporate and political agendas.