June 15, 2020 / 12:14 AM / 18 days ago

Popovich blasts Goodell for folding to Trump on anthem protests

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sharply ripped NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for folding under pressure from president Donald Trump in the past when it came to national anthem protests.

FILE PHOTO: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the Economic Club of New York luncheon in Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling for the anthem in 2016 and Trump repeatedly took aim at the NFL and the protest situation during the 2017 season.

Popovich said Goodell was intimidated by Trump.

“A smart man is running the NFL and he didn’t understand the difference between the flag and what makes the country great — all the people who fought to allow Kaepernick to have the right to kneel for justice,” the famous basketball coach told The New York Times. “The flag is irrelevant. It’s just a symbol that people glom onto for political reasons ...”

Popovich has been even more outspoken than usual since black man George Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25 after white officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. He also has often criticized Trump.

And he also has no patience with the reported seven NFL owners who donated $1 million to Trump’s campaign in 2016. Among those owners were Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots.

“It’s just hypocritical,” he told the Times. “It’s incongruent. It doesn’t make sense. People aren’t blind. Do you go to your staff and your players and talk about injustices and democracy and how to protest? I don’t get it. I think they put themselves in a position that’s untenable.”

Earlier this month, Goodell released a video and said he was wrong for not listening to players and their concerns about social justice and racism.

Popovich, 71, has won five NBA titles with the Spurs and ranks third all-time with 1,272 regular-season victories.

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