The San Antonio Spurs joined the rest of the NBA in kneeling for the national anthem ahead of their Friday game against the Sacramento Kings, but there were a few noticeable holdouts in the form of head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant coach Becky Hammon. They joined Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac and Miami Heat big man Meyers Leonard as the only four team figures not to kneel as of Saturday, but Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan asked fans not to vilify Popovich or Hammon for their decisions.
“With Pop and Becky standing, I have no thoughts [contrary to] belief in them that is all out of genuine, out of a positive side of their heart,” DeRozan said after San Antonio’s win over the Kings. “Same way we kneel. Don’t take away nothing from those guys.
“You know Pop speaks out. When it comes to Becky, she’s been [on the] front line, fighting for equality since I’ve been a fan of hers playing in the WNBA. So everybody has their own right of making a statement and you can’t vilify nobody for not doing what the other group is doing. I’m all for it.”
Popovich did not give an explanation for his decision, instead choosing to keep his thoughts to himself.
“I prefer to keep that to myself,” Popovich politely said when asked about his decision to stand during the anthem. “Everybody has to make a personal decision. The league has been great about that. Everybody has the freedom to react any way that they want. For whatever reasons that I have, I reacted the way I wanted to.”
NBA rules technically prohibit kneeling during the anthem. However, NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed Thursday that the league will not enforce that rule in the bubble. “I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem,” Silver said, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
Popovich has been outspoken on a variety of social justice matters in recent years but is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and the head coach for USA Basketball’s senior men’s team. He served five years in the Air Force upon graduating.