Gregg Popovich

While offering insightful, sensitive and discerning comments about athletes who protest during the national anthem, Gregg Popovich made references to Martin Luther King, Michael Brown, Al Gore, George W. Bush, Colin Kaepernick and Serbian tacos.

"I absolutely understand why they're doing what they're doing, and I respect their courage for what they've done," Popovich said Monday at the Spurs' media day. "The question is whether it will do any good or not because it seems that change really seems to happen through political pressure, no matter how you look at it. Whether it's Dr. King getting large groups together and boycotting buses, or what's happened in Carolina with the NBA and other organizations pulling events to make it known what's going on. But I think the important thing that Kaepernick and others have done is to keep it in the conversation. When's the last time you heard the name Michael Brown? With our 24/7 news, things seem to drift. We're all trying to just exist and survive.

"It's easier for white people because we haven't lived that experience. It's difficult for many white people to understand the day-to-day feeling that many black people have to deal with. It's not just a rogue policeman, or a policeman exerting too much force or power, when we know that most of the police are just trying to do their job, which is very difficult. I'd be scared to death if I was a policeman and I stopped a car. You just don't know what's going to happen. And part of that in our country is exacerbated by the preponderance of guns that other countries don’t have to deal with. It gets very complicated."

Kaepernick's decision to sit, and now kneel, during the anthem to protest police brutality and injustice for minorities has triggered a national debate about patriotism, civil rights and respect for the military. Popovich has unique perspective. He attended the Air Force Academy and served for five years in the intelligence department after graduation, and he will coach the U.S national team at the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics.

For the full rundown of Popovich's quotes, including why he says the level of discourse in this country "is basically in the gutter," check out this transcription from Melissa Rohlin of the San Antonio Express-News.