Literate, luminous and unafraid of what people might think of them, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich have never been shy about contributing to the political discourse in our country.
Whereas some in their position may think it’s not their business, or are afraid of the controversy their words might create, Kerr and Popovich understand they have a platform to express how they feel. And they are happy to do so.
As you know, this has been a terribly difficult last few days in the United States. Our society is trying to wade through the grief created by mass shootings in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio, that killed 34 people in just over a week.
Speaking at USA Basketball camp in Las Vegas on Tuesday, both Kerr and Popovich said they believe its time Congress gets serious about enacting gun control legislation to help curb access to assault-style weapons.
“When you have 97 percent of the people in the country who want universal background checks and the Senate, not only, not won’t pass it, won’t even vote on it because [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell won’t allow them to vote on it because the NRA has bought him off, then you got problems,” said Kerr, an assistant coach on the team that will play for the World Cup. “I think that’s the issue. We have to have elected leaders who are willing to value human life over their own jobs and their contributions from the NRA.”
Kerr, whose father, a USA diplomat, was assassinated in Lebanon in 1984 in an act of terrorism, told reporters he thinks all the time about how easy it might be for a gunman to barge into an NBA practice and target his team.
“I think about it all the time. Somebody could walk in the door in the gym right now and start spraying us with an AR-15,” Kerr told the Bay Area News Group on Monday. “They could. It might happen because we’re all vulnerable, whether we go to a concert, a church, the mall or go to the movie theater or a school. It’s up to us as Americans to demand change from the gutless leadership that continues to allow this to happen and continues to somehow claim the Second Amendment is doing its job.”
Popovich, the USA’s head coach and a frequent critic of President Trump and his policies, was even more pointed in his comments.
“It’d be a lot better if the people in power got off their asses and got something done … in a lot of different areas,” Popovich said. “I think they’re on vacation right now.
“Nothing going on, so they just take a break. They’ll come back and fix the gun situation, the environment, inequality, pay, they’ll fix all that when they come back, I’m sure.”
Neither Kerr or Popovich have been discouraged to speak their minds by their clubs or the league, even though everyone understands they have fans who do not agree with them philosophically.
“I’ve always been outspoken in terms of gun safety and gun measures,” said Kerr. “That is something that has been very important to me for a long time. I’ve gotten very involved with some of the gun safety groups, like the Brady Campaign and the Sandy Hook Promise and March For Our Lives, the (Gabby) Giffords group. These are all wonderful groups that are doing a lot of good things.
“I think there is a lot of momentum now that is building.”
In some extreme cases, such as when NFL players began to kneel during the national anthem, fans outraged by what they considered to be an unpatriotic act said they would never watch another league game.
In 2016, Popovich told The Undefeated about some of the recoil he faces when he speaks out.
“They (emails) were almost all positive, but every now and then there was one saying they will never spend another dollar at the Spurs arena or a Spurs game, something like that,” said Popovich. “But mostly positive. People understood. Most of the comments were that the words were things they wanted to say, but didn’t have a platform to say. I’m glad I did.
“I’m not trying to run for office or do anything great. I’m just trying to be honest with what I felt and what I think people are feeling.”
In other words, neither Kerr or Popovich care about what others may think of them. For example, here’s what Kerr said Tuesday about what he would say to Trump if he had the chance to speak to him.
“Nothing,” said Kerr. “I wouldn’t bother talking with him.”
Like Popovich, Kerr has a history talking back to Trump. In 2017, Kerr made it known in advance that his NBA championship team would not visit the White House if invited by Trump, saying it was a “human respect issue” for his players.
“First, we weren’t invited,” Kerr told CNN when reminded about Trump’s tweet in which he took back Stephen Curry’s White House invitation after the team captain said he would not go.
“Our guys felt pretty strongly even before we knew that we didn’t have an invitation that it was going to be a tough visit. A lot of us, myself included, have been pretty critical of President Trump.”
When Kerr was asked why the Warriors decided to turn the White House invitation into a political issue he was blunt.
“I’ve been lucky to visit the White House with, I think, four different presidents, President Reagan, President Clinton, both President Bushes,” he said.
“I didn’t always agree with their policy, but I never once thought ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not going to go because I disagree with, you know, immigration or some foreign policy or tax reform.
“With all of those presidents that I mentioned, they were all above reproach in terms of their respect for their fellow man, and their respect for the office. And I don’t think any of us see that right now.”