San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich on Sunday praised NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for his leadership during a recent spat with China, contrasting the commissioner’s style with that of President Trump.
Speaking to the media before the Spurs’s game Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans, Popovich slammed Trump’s approach to dealing with authoritarian leaders, according to ESPN.
“[Silver] stood by our nation and its principles. That’s pretty huge in these days,” Popovich said. “Sometimes, it’s kind of Orwellian. You think we’re living in a place where, ‘Is this really happening?’ But that comparison was pretty stark when you put our president up against those leaders when he’s with them or talking to him and how he reacts compared to the way Adam Silver reacted. I was proud of him. It was great.”
ESPN noted that Popovich initially dismissed speaking on the topic, saying he is “too busy,” before detailing his thoughts on how Silver has handled the fallout of the NBA’s recent controversy regarding China.
“All I did was make a comparison between Adam Silver’s show of principle and courage in a tough situation, as opposed to how our president reacts when in the company of authoritarian figures, whether it’s Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Russia or Turkey, whatever it is,” Popovich said. “It comes off as really feckless, impotent, cowardly by comparison.”
Popovich’s comments come after Trump knocked him and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr for not speaking out regarding the NBA’s handling of its relationship with China following a since-deleted tweet from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey that supported protesters in Hong Kong.
Silver last week defended Morey’s right to free speech, saying the league was not apologizing for Morey’s tweet and that it would support freedom of expression regardless of the costs in China.
Popovich last week also praised Silver’s response. Both Kerr and Popovich have previously spoken openly about Trump and the country’s political climate, including opining on hot-button issues such as police brutality and gun violence.