As members of the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings knelt during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” in condemnation of social injustice and racism, Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon remained standing.
Popovich, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy who served five years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force before becoming head coach of the Spurs, stood with his hands at his sides as he does during the playing of the anthem at every game.
“I’d prefer to keep that to myself,” Popovich said of his decision to stand when asked after the game. “Everybody has to make a personal decision. The league’s been great about that; everybody has the freedom to react any way they want.”
Hammon, the Spurs lead assistant coach, stood in line with the players. She draped one arm over the shoulder of Will Hardy, another Spurs assistant who was kneeling to her right, and the other over veteran San Antonio guard Patty Mills, who was kneeling to her left.
Popovich and Hammon both wore “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts, as almost all players and coaches have for warm-ups and the anthem.
Prior to the game, Popovich made clear that the decision to kneel belonged to each individual person, but that the organization — and NBA — as a whole unequivocally supported the fight for racial justice.
“With the events that we’ve all witnessed in this last year, it’s just logical and wise to try to keep that momentum, going and try to keep this on the front burner,” Popovich said. “Because it’s a national embarrassment. It keeps us from being the country we should be and the country that was promised to everyone.
“Nothing could be more poignant than to have all of the teams here all committed to making statements and letting it be known that this has got to change. And not just a little bit.”
During the NBA’s pause, the five-time NBA champion has been vocal about America’s issues with race, denouncing U.S. president Donald Trump for his inability to “say simply that Black Lives Matter,” and encouraging Americans to reckon with the country’s racist history — and the way it continues to affect the present.
“We have no doubt in [what Pop and Hammon believe],” Spurs star DeMar DeRozan said after the game. “Pop speaks out. Becky’s on the front line. She stands for equality. …There’s no need to vilify someone for standing.”