Most NBA heads never thought that LeBron James and Gregg Popovich would ever get to be on the same team. But even as the NBA turns its attention to the actual games, two of the most outspoken and highest-profile members of the NBA have once again taken a firm stance against President Donald Trump.
On Monday, Popovich, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was so angered by Trump’s claim that past presidents did not call the families of fallen soldiers (“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them didn’t make calls”) that the usually press-averse Spurs coach actually called a journalist.
Dave Zirin of The Nation was on the other line. Here’s what Popovich said:
This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner — and to lie about how previous Presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers — is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House: unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this President should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.
Popovich hasn’t been shy about expressing his displeasure with the current administration, even though he is set to be the new coach (and therefore face) of Team USA and is employed by Spurs chairman Julianna Holt, who was one of South Texas’s largest donors to the Trump campaign.
James, an employee of Dan Gilbert, is in a similarly thorny situation. The Cavs owner had to rush James and his teammates out of their home arena to set up for the Republican National Convention. But James has remained at the forefront of a necessary conversation. In a GQ magazine story that dropped on Tuesday, LeBron discussed the president and what it means to be black in America:
So those people may love the way I play the game of basketball. … My state definitely voted for Donald Trump, the state that I grew up in. And I think I can sit here and say that I have a lot of fans in that state, too. It’s unfortunate.
James at one point joked about how he’ll “foul the shit” out of his eldest son if they ever play against each other in the league, but even that happy thought is soured by the current climate. “I have to go home and talk to my 13- and 10-year-old sons, even my 2-year-old daughter, about what it means to grow up being an African-American in America,” James said. “Because no matter how great you become in life, no matter how wealthy you become, how people worship you, or what you do, if you are an African-American man or African-American woman, you will always be that.”
In November, James held a pre-election rally for Hillary Clinton in Ohio. He’s long been outspoken when it comes to Trump, most recently addressing him as “U bum” in a tweet that defended Steph Curry’s position on passing on a potential White House visit.
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
Trump, rather incongruently, hasn’t tweeted responses to either James or Popovich. Given his long-held social media habits, it might just be a matter of time. But even as the regular season is set to tip off, both James and Pop, two of the most important voices in sports, have shown time and time again that they won’t remain silent on this issue.