When he’s not coaching basketball or expressing his tongue-in-cheek disgust towards sideline reporters, Gregg Popovich is known for his comments and critiques on American politics. Popovich, a graduate of the Air Force Academy who served a five-year tour of duty, has never been shy about using his status as one of the NBA’s most prominent voices to call for change when he sees fit, like when he challenged lawmakers to finally do something about gun violence in the United States following a pair of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
This has led to Popovich getting asked with some frequency about whatever might be going on in American politics on a given day, which occurred on Tuesday. Popovich is spending his summer coaching the United States men’s basketball team as it heads to the World Cup in China, and while meeting with the media, the San Antonio Spurs coach was asked about divisiveness and patriotism.
His full answer, via ESPN, is quite illuminating — Popovich decried “fake” acts of patriotism like hugging an American flag (you can probably put two and two together on this one), said that critiquing America does not make you less of a patriot, and gave a definition of what he believes patriotism means in the United States in 2019.
“Being a patriot is somebody that respects their country and understands that the best thing about our country is that we have the ability to fix things that have not come to fruition for a lot of people so far,” Popovich said.
The future Hall of Fame inductee then made it a point to praise Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has been unable to get a job in the NFL ever since his time with the team came to an end following the 2016 season. Kaepernick famously sat during the national anthem during a preseason game as part of a critique of systemic racism and oppression within the United States, and as Popovich told the press, he believed this was a form of patriotism.
“To negate that part of what we’re able to do is ignorant on anybody’s part who tries to make those people look unpatriotic,” Popovich said. “Like a Kaepernick. That was a very patriotic thing he did. He cared about his country enough to fix some things that were obvious, that everybody knows about but does nothing about.”
Kaepernick has been back in the news lately due to a video he tweeted out showing that he’s “still ready” to return to the NFL. The video notably featured a clock at the beginning which counted the number of days that Kaepernick has been “denied work” in the league.