SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – President Trump refused to take sides in the free speech spat between China and the NBA Wednesday, but he used the opportunity to lash out at a couple of coaches who have criticized him in the past–Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich and Golden State’s Steve Kerr.
“I watched the way that like Kerr and Popovich and some of the others were pandering to China, and yet to our own country, it’s like they don’t respect it,” said President Trump.
While not naming Trump Tuesday night, Popovich criticized him when asked about NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s statement that he won’t censor players or team owners who express their thoughts about China, the Hong Kong protestors or other issues. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sparked a controversy when he tweeted support for Hong Kong protestors against China’s government.
“The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say,” Silver said in the statement. “We simply could not operate that way.”
That statement could jeopardize the NBA’s business in one of the league’s biggest markets, but Popovich called Silver courageous.
“He came out strongly for freedom of speech today. He’s been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous, compared to what we’ve had to live with the past three years,” Popovich said in a veiled reference to President “Trump.”It’s a big difference, a big gap there, leadership-wise and courage-wise.”
Kerr didn’t jump into the fray between China and the NBA. He said “it’s easy to speak on issues that I’m passionate about and feel like I’m well-versed on,” but Kerr told reporters he doesn’t have enough knowledge on this situation to talk about politics in China.
“I watch this guy Steve Kerr, and he was like a little boy,” Trump said. “He was so scared to be even answering the question.”
But the President didn’t think Popovich looked timid.
“I watched Popovich. Sort of the same thing, but he didn’t look quite as scared, actually,” said Trump.
The President didn’t take a stance on the China-NBA free speech dispute.
“They have to work out their own situation,” the President said.
Instead, he took another swipe at Popovich and Kerr.
“They talk badly about the United States, but when they talk about China, they don’t want to say anything bad. I thought it was pretty sad, actually,” Trump Said.