Gregg Popovich laments Daunte Wright's death, condemns inaction of politicians

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich spoke to the media following the murder of Daunte Wright by a police officer in Minnesota.

On Sunday in a Minneapolis suburb, it happened again.

Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, died after a police officer shot him during a traffic stop in the city of Brooklyn Center.

"It just makes you sick to your stomach," San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said Monday when addressing the shooting. "How many times does it have to happen? As sick to our stomachs as we might feel, that individual is dead! He's dead! And his family is grieving. And his friends are grieving. And we just keep moving on as if nothing is happening."

The reason officers had pulled Wright over was expired vehicle registration tags, according to Tim Gannon, Chief of the Brooklyn Center police department, after which they discovered a warrant for his arrest, stemming from a missed court appearance. A brief struggled ensued. Body camera footage depicted Wright's final moments. As he lurched towards his car, one officer could be seen pointing a handgun at him and shouting "Taser" before one shot was fired -- a fatal act that Gannon called an "accidental discharge" of the firearm.

Wright had been driving with his girlfriend at the time, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries when, after the shooting, the car travelled several blocks and collided with another vehicle. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene.

"We mourn the death of Daunte Wright and pray for his family and loved ones during this extremely difficult time," the NBPA wrote in a statement, echoing Popovich's sentiments. "Our hearts go out to the entire Minneapolis community as they struggle to process this latest tragedy together with the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin.

In an effort to respect Wright's family and the community, the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Timberwolves postponed games scheduled for Monday.

The backdrop for Sunday's fatal shooting was a region firmly at the centre of America's reckoning with acts of police brutality against Black people. In a courtroom less than 10 miles away, prosecutors completed their questioning of witnesses in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is charged with murdering George Floyd last May.

Hundreds of people have taken to the streets since the news of Wright's death. At a vigil near where Wright died, his mother urged protesters to be peaceful. But Sunday night, at the Brooklyn Center police department, officers fired rubber bullets and chemical agents at demonstrators, some of whom had thrown garbage, water bottles and rocks at the police.

Popovich wasn't among them, of course. But he used his time in front of the camera Monday to be a conduit for their pain, their anger and their exhausted frustration with America's status quo.

"I said it before, I think we're already in the process of being Rome," Popovich said. "It's over unless we find some leadership and some common sense and some fibre in some people that can steer us in the right direction. It's all connected. It's the same feeling we have with guns and massacres.

"We see what's happening with policing and Black men and some other people of colour. With the massacres of our children, it's the same thing. It goes on and on, and everybody says, 'When is it going to be enough?' Of course, I don't have those answers. But the people who continually fight to maintain that status quo are not good people."

Some American politicians have called for action. President Joe Biden, while empathizing with the "anger, pain and trauma amidst the Black community," called for a full investigation into Wright's death. Tim Walz, the governor of Minnesota who is a Democrat, demanded state lawmakers pass police reform bills.

One such bill, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, was passed by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in March and will be considered by the Senate. Though far from a cure-all to remedy America's policing problems, it is generally considered a step toward combatting racial discrimination and excessive use of force by law enforcement.

All but one Republican member of congress voted against the bill. The one who broke with party ranks to vote in favour has since said it was a mistake. Popovich pointed to the inaction of, primarily, Republicans on issues of anti-Black racism and gun violence as being central to why progress hasn't been made on those fronts.

"I mentioned our governor in Texas -- Governor Abbott -- it's deplorable and it's almost impossible to listen to this man speak," Popovich said. "The other day when guns came up, he actually made the statement again -- an old, trite, myth argument that 'They're coming for your guns'... Nobody is taking away anybody's guns, and he knows it.

"So, he's a liar. But he wants to keep his seat. He wants to continue to stay in power. So he'll say wherever he has to do."

Abbott's gun control comments, which included accusing Biden of "threatening our Second Amendment rights," came after the president announced modest changes intended to curb gun violence such as closing background check loopholes, banning assault weapons and removing lawsuit protections for gun manufacturers.

Beyond Abbott, Popovich condemned Republican politicians' unwillingness to denounce the baseless conspiracy theory that alleges the 2020 presidential election was somehow stolen from Donald Trump, while also lamenting the dire consequences of political inaction.

"It's sickening, it's dangerous, do these people want a country or not?" Popovich said. "Do these people have grandchildren? Do they want their grandchildren to go to work and go to school and go through these drills and worry about being murdered? What does it take?

"Care more about them than your freaking power and your position and your donors. With policing, it's the same damn way. How many young Black kids have to be killed for no freaking reason?"

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