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Popovich blasts Goodell, NFL owners: 'The flag is irrelevant'

Jason Miller / Getty Images Sport / Getty

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich rebuked NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for failing to support Colin Kaepernick and other players who have protested racial injustice by kneeling during the U.S. national anthem.

"A smart man is running the NFL and he didn't understand the difference between the flag and what makes the country great - all the people who fought to allow Kaepernick to have the right to kneel for justice," Popovich told The New York Times' Maureen Dowd. "The flag is irrelevant. It's just a symbol that people glom onto for political reasons, just like (Dick) Cheney back in the Iraq war."

The longtime Spurs bench boss added that Goodell "folded" when U.S. President Donald Trump criticized those who kneel during the national anthem.

Trump suggested in September 2017 that NFL owners fire any player who refused to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner." He also took issue with Goodell's recent statement that the NFL was "wrong for not listening" to players who had previously staged protests.

Popovich also criticized Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who were among seven NFL owners who donated $1 million each to Trump's inaugural committee in 2017.

"It's just hypocritical. It's incongruent," Popovich said. "It doesn't make sense. People aren't blind. Do you go to your staff and your players and talk about injustices and democracy and how to protest? I don't get it. I think they put themselves in a position that's untenable."

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