SAN ANTONIO — Gregg Popovich has a reputation of speaking out against racial and social injustices.

So it wasn’t surprising when the San Antonio Spurs coach spoke before Sunday’s game vs. the 76ers about voting rights legislation being blocked in the U.S. Senate and Juneteenth becoming a national holiday. Popovich addressed the two topics for several minutes after a reporter asked his thoughts on the Juneteenth holiday. The reporter noted that some people feel that it doesn’t have to be a national holiday since it’s been celebrated for years.

“A lot of people didn’t want Martin Luther King Day, either,” Popovich said. “That was a big struggle. It’s just been part of our country. Always has been.

As far as Juneteenth, yeah, I might be too cynical or maybe I’m just realistic, but it sort of felt like a lot of politicians acquiesced to Juneteenth basically either blatantly or between the lines of ‘Now shut up. You got that, be happy. Now what else do you want?’ ”

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Popovich said what’s wanted is justice, equality and the recognition that the country systemically keeps Black and brown people in the “background, underneath and less than.”

“It was that kind of an attitude that’s really depressing and angry both at the same time,” he said. “So you still see it today with the voting rights.”

Two Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) and Joe Manchin (West Virginia), sided Wednesday night with the 50 Senate Republicans to block changes to the Senate’s filibuster rule, preventing Democrats from passing voting rights legislation. Nineteen states enacted restrictions in 2021 that make it harder to vote, in an effort to minimize the minority vote.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed to prevent local and state governments from adopting laws that denied citizens the equal right to vote based on race. But the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision by the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the law by allowing states to change their election practices without getting approval from the federal government.

The Democrats are now trying to pass revised voting rights legislation.

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Popovich said Manchin and Sinema voted as they did due to their personal political reasons.

“They must think we’re stupid or they just don’t care, or both,” he said. “But we’re in such a dangerous situation right now. It’s hard to know how to go forward.

“The thing for me being a white person, looking at our country … as much as our community of color has been oppressed and denigrated and so on and so forth ... those are the people that tried to save this damn country from itself. It’s just ironic to me every time we take steps forward, we get the backlash.”

It’s mind-boggling to Popovich that voting rights are in the situation they’re in.

As for Juneteenth, President Joe Biden signed a bill that was passed by Congress to set aside Juneteenth, or June 19, as a federal holiday.

The celebration began with the freed slaves of Galveston, Texas. Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed the nation’s slaves in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War in 1865.

It was on June 19, 1865 that Union Major General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived at Galveston with news that war had ended and the enslaved were now free.