San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he was stunned to read comments by NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Childress and Richard Petty regarding what they would do to team members of theirs who protested during the national anthem.
Petty said anyone who didn’t stand for the anthem “ought to be out of the country” while Childress said he would tell a protesting employee of his to get on a Greyhound bus when the anthem was over.
Popovich, speaking to reporters Monday, said the comments blew him away. The Spurs coach then pivoted to talking about President Donald Trump — who said he was “proud” of NASCAR and its fans after seeing Childress’ and Petty’s comments — and said that the United States was an embarrassment to the world.
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“I just heard a comment this morning from a NASCAR owner and from Mr. Petty that just blew me away,” Popovich said. “Blew me away. Where the owner described the fact that he would get the Greyhound bus tickets for anybody to leave and they’d be fired and Mr. Petty who said people who act the way we saw on Sunday they should leave the country. That’s where I live. I had no idea that I lived in a country where people would actually say that sort of thing.”
“I’m not totally naive but I think these people have been enabled by an example that we’ve all been given. And we’ve seen it in Charlottesville and on and on and on. That’s not a surprise. Get over it. What do we do to get it done. To go to the grassroots and not allow this to happen again.”
“Our country is an embarrassment to the world. This is an individual who actually thought that when people held arms during the games that they were doing it to honor the flag. That’s delusional. Absolutely delusional but what we have to live with. So you’ve got a choice, We can continue to bounce our heads off the wall with his conduct or we can decide that the institutions of our country are more important, that people are more important, that the decent America that we all thought we had and want is more important and get down to business at the grassroots level and do what we have to do.”
Popovich, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1970, has been outspoken against Trump many times before, previously calling the president thin-skinned (among other things). He also called Trump’s behavior “disgusting” on Monday.
Childress and Petty both made their comments to journalists Sunday morning. Monday afternoon, NASCAR issued a very bland and watered-down statement, more than 24 hours after many people likely believed the two owners over the age of 70 spoke for the whole sport.
“Sports are a unifying influence in our society, bringing people of differing backgrounds and beliefs together. Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events,” NASCAR’s statement said. “Thanks to the sacrifices of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion.”
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