As Team USA prepare to represent their country at the Fiba World Cup, their coach, Gregg Popovich, has given his thoughts on patriotism and how some have twisted the concept for their own ends. He also praised Colin Kaepernick, who he believes has taken a “patriotic” stand.
“Patriotism means a lot of things to different people,” Popovich said. “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.”
Popovich, an Air Force veteran, is taking a break from his usual role as coach of the San Antonio Spurs, to lead the US at the tournament in China. He was speaking at Team USA’s training camp in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
“All the promises in the beginning when the country was established is fantastic, but those goals have not been reached yet for a lot of people,” Popovich said. “So you can still be patriotic and understand that there still needs to be criticism and changes and more attention paid to those who do not have what other people do have, and that’s where we’ve fallen short in a lot of different ways. Being a critic of those inequalities does not make you a non-patriot. 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.”
Popovich has spoken up in defence of Kaepernick in the past. The former NFL quarterback has found himself out of the league since kneeling for the national anthem in protest and racial injustice in the United States.
“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.”
Team USA are favourites to win the World Cup, which starts at the end of the month, despite the withdrawal of many of the NBA’s best players.