Gregg Popovich delivers stirring statement as Spurs focus on race

As protests condemning police brutality broke out around the country, and locally in San Antonio, a team of Spurs executives started a lengthy email exchange Saturday night that led to meetings lasting late into Sunday. The club reckoned with how to proceed, knowing it needed to take an impactful organizational stance. As the executives brainstormed into the night, Brandon James, their vice-president of basketball administration and deputy general counsel, came up with the idea to put together the #SpursVoices series.

But before the organization decided to lend a hand to the outside world, it first wanted to address matters internally. In the past, the Spurs had engaged the players on numerous occasions by bringing in various speakers such as Michael Eric Dyson and John Carlos to speak with the team. This time, the executives wanted to engage the entire organization.

On Monday morning, the Spurs called an internal townhall on a video conference that swelled to more than 300 staffers, including Popovich, Buford, James and general manager Brian Wright, as well as Spurs Sports & Entertainment Chairman Peter J. Holt. The emotional meeting lasted nearly three hours and gave various staffers — ranging from security guards to staff in the ticket office — the opportunity to share their personal stories involving experiences with racism.

The club also consulted with various experts in fields regarding matters of race, including Dr. Richard Lapchick, founder and director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics In Sport. A natural connection already existed with Lapchick; he mentored Wright while the Spurs executive worked toward a master’s degree in sports business management from the DeVos Sports Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida.

The executives emerged from Monday’s meeting shaken by what the staffers had shared. 

“In the last week I have had the opportunity to sit and listen to the voices of members of our organization,” Holt said in a #SpursVoices video published June 5. “The anger, the pain, exhaustion and sadness I heard in these impactful stories was agonizing and heart-wrenching. It shook me to my core.

“I fully recognize that I’m a white male. On top of that, I was born into a privileged name and a wealthy family. My family always pushed me to be educated and knowledgeable, especially in regard to our society, our history, culture, and just overall humanity. I have been blessed in my life to experience many different people and places. I’ve been blessed to have relationships with incredible and amazing people of different races, religions, ethnicities, backgrounds, places of origin. Because of this, I thought I understood race. I now fully realize that I do not understand. I must listen and learn now more than ever.

“As an organization,” he continued. “We believe we can do more to help address the systemic racism in our society, and we embrace this opportunity. Leadership is not defined by title and status. It is defined by purpose, behavior and action. We have incredibly strong and thoughtful leaders in every area of our Spurs family. I’m grateful for their willingness and courage to tackle this complex and important issue. I also know that I must do more. Together, we will put the full weight of our organization behind this critical effort.”

Holt made that decision in the wake of Monday’s meeting, believing the Spurs had a duty to work toward enact ing lasting change.

The #SpursVoices video series launched on Wednesday with the club posting multiple videos on its 26 digital platforms every day since. 

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