Gregg Popovich has been outspoken over the years in his advocacy for racial justice and equality in America, but the Spurs coach was reticent Friday night about why he stood for the national anthem rather than take a knee with members of his team and the Kings.
"I'd prefer to keep that to myself," he told reporters after San Antonio's 129-120 victory over Sacramento. "Everybody has to make a personal decision."
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Popovich said that the NBA has been "great" about allowing people to decide whether to stand or to kneel as a show of protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
"Everybody has the freedom to react any way they want," he said. "For whatever reasons I have, I reacted the way I wanted to."
Spurs assistant Becky Hammon also stood for the anthem.
Popovich, 71 and a graduate of the Air Force Academy, has a long history of publicly standing with the Black community, and that has earned him goodwill within his team and the NBA community. Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan supported Popovich and Hammon's actions.
"Pop speaks up," DeRozan said. "When it comes to Becky, she has been frontline about equality."
Among his many statements, Popovich recently said George Floyd's death last May at the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis was a "lynching." He said last year that former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who introduced the kneeling protest to the sports world, will be celebrated like Muhammad Ali in the future.
Earlier on Friday, Magic forward Jonathan Isaac also stood for the anthem and declined to wear the "Black Lives Matter" warmup T-shirt that everyone else on the sideline was wearing.
"I believe that Black lives matter," Isaac, who is Black, said. "Kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt doesn't go hand-in-hand with supporting Black lives."
NBA rules prohibit kneeling for the anthem, but commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that the rule would not be enforced during the "unique moment in history" that the NBA is facing as it resumes play amid the protests and COVID-19.