Thursday marked the anniversary of the assassination Malcolm X, the influential civil rights leader who fearlessly brought the issues of inequality and injustice against black Americans to the forefront of the national discourse.
His legacy has been somewhat overshadowed in the intervening years by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose philosophy of peaceful protest and nonviolent resistance became more palatable to mainstream America than Malcolm’s more controversial approach of “by any means necessary.”
Regardless, Malcolm X has inspired generations to stand up and speak out for social justice, and that includes a litany of professional athletes, both past and present, who are using their voices and their platforms to effect change. That also includes coaches like Gregg Popovich, who has never been shy about voicing his opinions on a variety of divisive political issues.
Prior to the Spurs’ game against the Knicks on Sunday in New York, Pop spoke about Malcolm’s legacy.
“[It was] honesty that nobody wanted to hear, long before anybody heard anything,” Popovich said. “He was saying things that nobody else would say, that were all very true, but because it didn’t wanna be heard, he was labeled…almost like a terrorist, revolutionary, in a negative criminal sense, in a dangerous sense, somebody that was other than and less than, to be avoided. But he spoke the truth in many, many, many ways.”
Popovich himself has a rather long history of speaking out against political leaders, namely President Trump, for his racist, sexist, xenophobic remarks. Popovich joins other coaches like Steve Kerr, Stan Van Gundy, and others who have spoken out against injustice and stood in solidarity with players and other league personnel in doing the same.