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Spurs’ Gregg Popovich about to stand for national anthem: ‘I reacted the way I wanted’

Gregg Popovich has been outspoken in his plea for racial justice and equality in America over the years, but the Spurs coach was reluctant on Friday night about why he faced the national anthem instead of kneeing members of his team and the kings.

“I’d rather keep that to myself,” he told reporters after San Antonio’s victory over Sacramento, 129-120. “Everyone has to make a personal decision.”

MORE: Charles Barkley declares his support for those who don’t kneel

Popovich said the NBA has been “great” in allowing people to decide whether to stand or kneel as a demonstration of protest against police brutality and racial injustice.

“Everyone has the freedom to respond the way they want to,” he said. “For whatever reason, I responded the way I wanted.”

Spurs assistant Becky Hammon also faced the national anthem.

Popovich, 71 and an Air Force Academy graduate, has a long history of being publicly exposed to the black community, which has earned him goodwill within his team and the NBA community. Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan supported the actions of Popovich and Hammon.

“Pop says something,” DeRozan said. “When it comes to Becky, she’s at the forefront of equality.”

Among his many statements, Popovich recently said that George Floyd’s death on the knee of a Minneapolis police officer was “lynching” last May. Last year, he said former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who introduced the kneeling protest to the sports world, will be celebrated in the future like Muhammad Ali.

Earlier on Friday, Magic forward Jonathan Isaac also faced the national anthem and refused to wear the warm-up T-shirt “Black Lives Matter” that everyone wore on the sidelines.

“I believe black life matters,” said Isaac, who is black. “Kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt doesn’t go hand in hand with supporting a black life.”

NBA rules ban kneeling before national anthem, but Commissioner Adam Silver said on Thursday that the rule will not be upheld during the “unique moment in history” the NBA faces as it resumes play amid protests and COVID-19 .

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