Gary Popvich (239707)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

As Donald Trump continues his political decompensation, prominent sports figures have been unwavering in lending their voice to the resistance of his authoritarian and regressive ideology that has placed American democracy and the well-being of the masses in peril.

With a massive tax cut for the rich cloaked in a health care bill, potentially putting the lives of millions of people in jeopardy, the furtherance of the destruction of the environment, stripping women of self-determination of their own bodies, anti-Muslim polices that have repeatedly been rejected by federal courts and a blatant attack on the foundation of the Constitution, Trump’s narcissism and incompetence have directly and indirectly touched everyone on American soil.

As his team faces an arduous 0-2 deficit in the NBA’s Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich, a 1970 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, who served five years of active duty in the Air Force, once again publicly pondered the state of American society and culture under the fledgling Trump presidency.

“Usually things happen in the world and you go to work and you have your family and your friends and you do what you do,” the 68-year-old five-time NBA champion said before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals last Sunday.

“To this day, I feel like there’s a cloud, a pall over the whole country in a paranoid, surreal sort of way,”he said.”It’s got nothing to do with the Democrats losing the election, it has to do with the way one individual conducts himself, and that’s embarrassing. It’s dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be.”

Popovich expounded, “For this individual, he’s in a game show. Everything that happens begins and ends with him, not our people or our country. Every time he talks about those things, it’s a ruse. Disingenuous, cynical.”

The unpretentious Popovich, whose caustic, satirical and sardonic tone with the media, particularly with the late broadcaster Craig Sager, made his interviews must-see TV, echoes what many sports figures feel but are reluctant to openly state for fear of protecting their brand or alienating potential sponsors. He has done what authentic patriots do. Unlike Trump, he has served his country with honor and continues to demonstrate care for people on a broad socio-economic spectrum.

Shortly after Trump was elected in November, Popovich offered the following thoughts. “I’m a rich white guy, and I’m sick to my stomach thinking about it,” he said of Trump’s Electoral College victory. “I can’t imagine being a Muslim right now, or a woman, or an African-American, a Hispanic, a handicapped person, how disenfranchised they might feel. And for anyone in those groups that voted for him, it’s just beyond my comprehension how they ignore all that. And so, my final conclusion is—my big fear is—we are Rome.”

The Spurs’ roster consists of Black players from inner city America, as well as players from France, Eastern Europe, Canada, Spain and Australia. It’s a microcosm of the United States. Popovich, without having to articulate it, sees himself as a teacher of life, not just basketball.

He understands he must look these men, some barely beyond their teenage years, in their eyes each day and serve as more than just a basketball coach. Help them navigate a world Trump is recklessly intent on disrupting for his own personal gain. It’s a role with which he wasn’t charged, but a responsibility he has fearlessly and passionately embraced.