Legendary NBA head coach Gregg Popovich expressed his support for Colin Kaepernick during the Team USA basketball practice when he was asked about divisiveness in the country and patriotism.
Popovich said Kaepernick’s effort to call attention to perceived racial injustices in the U.S. by kneeling during the national anthem “was a very patriotic thing.”
“Patriotism means a lot of things to different people,” Popovich said, according to ESPN. “There's people who are truly committed in that sense and people who are fake. The show of patriotism I think is a bit inappropriate and that is not something that I think we want to emulate. Because someone hugs a flag doesn't mean they're patriotic. Being a patriot is somebody that respects their country and understands that the best thing about our country is that we have the ability to fix things that have not come to fruition for a lot of people so far.”
He said more attention needs to be paid to inequity.
"Being a critic of those inequalities does not make you a non-patriot," he said. "It's what makes America great, that you can say those things and attack those things to make them better. That's what a lot of other countries don't have. You lose your freedom when you do that.”
He then praised Kaepernick, who has not played professional football since opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers after the 2016 season.
“To negate that part of what we're able to do is ignorant on anybody's part who tries to make those people look unpatriotic,” Popovich said. “Like a Kaepernick. That was a very patriotic thing he did. He cared about his country enough to fix some things that were obvious, that everybody knows about but does nothing about.”
Kaepernick created a firestorm when he began to kneel during the national anthem. When he left the 49ers, he accused NFL owners of “blackballing” him in his efforts to return to an NFL team. He and the NFL settled a grievance in February.
Kaepernick remains unsigned but made sure teams understood he was “still ready” to play, even with his long absence from the game.