Gregg Popovich is consistently rated as the best coach in the NBA, and many defer to his wisdom when it comes to what’s happening on the floor. But Pop is far from a college football coach who studies his program so rigorously that he doesn’t have time for the outside world.
The San Antonio Spurs head coach is as politically outspoken as anyone in sports, and he’s publicly spoken against gun violence, Donald Trump and any number of issues over the years. But with election day just hours away, he took the opportunity to publicly support a candidate in an important senate race days in the final push to the polls.
Popovich wore a Beto O’Rourke hat at Spurs practice on Friday, coming out in support for the Democratic candidate for the Texas senate seat which Ted Cruz currently holds. Photos and video of Pop wearing a Beto hat quickly spread across social media on Friday night.
The hat is the same one that Lebron James wore in late October when the Lakers visited San Antonio. James offering his out-of-state support of O’Rourke is a nice visible boost of support, but Popovich is a local voter who is obviously well-versed in politics and has some significant clout.
On Saturday, before San Antonio hosted the New Orleans Pelicans, Popovich explained why he wore the hat, why he’s supporting O’Rourke and exactly why he thinks Ted Cruz should be voted out of office. On the latter count, Pop made it clear — rallying against and then later accepting Donald Trump’s support to keep a seat while making racist claims is a “scary” way to try keeping a foothold on political power.
“To do what Mr. Cruz has done to try to get elected is very scary,” Popovich told reporters on Saturday. “That’s about self. That’s not about the rest of us. And Beto is the exact opposite of that, and that’s why I think he is great.”
Asking for a more civil political discourse might be the easiest thing to do, but Popovich is serious about his support of O’Rourke, who he called a “special guy” and said he thinks can change the way politics are viewed in the country after a divisive few years.
“You get so tired of all the lies and the divisiveness, and the fearmongering and the race-baiting. It just diminishes all of us,” Popovich said. “It makes all of us feel strange, and when I think of Beto, or I listen to what he says, I feel like what I thought an American is supposed to be. He’s classy. He’s intelligent. He’s civil.”
Pop’s full comments are convincing, and it means a lot to have him devote a portion of his time with the media to essentially stumping for a senate candidate. But it’s not out of character for the Spurs coach to speak his mind about politics. And, as usual, when Pop speaks plenty of people listen.