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The NBA's war with Trump continues: Spurs Coach Popovich calls the president a 'soulless coward' for false claim about Obama

  • Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich slammed President Trump for his false claims about his predecessors not calling the families of fallen service members.
  • He called the president a "soulless coward" and a "pathological liar."
  • Popovich's words come as Trump is already embroiled in a feud with the National Football League, which has seen its ratings drop.
Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs
Getty Images
Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs

President Donald Trump is a "soulless coward," San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich told The Nation.

Popovich, a vocal critic of the president, called a reporter at the progressive magazine after Trump falsely claimed that President Barack Obama didn't call the families of fallen soldiers. The Spurs coach urged the reporter to let him talk on the record because Trump's remarks about former presidents were "so beyond the pale" that he was nearly speechless.

"This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others," Popovich said.

He went on to call Trump a "pathological liar" and said those who work with the president "should be ashamed."

Popovich's words come as Trump is already embroiled in a feud with the National Football League, which has seen its ratings drop – something the president has attributed in part to player protests, despite lack of clear evidence. Now eyes turn to the National Basketball Association, as its season is set to begin Tuesday, to see whether conflict with Trump fuels headlines during the next several months.

Popovich's criticism of the president follows similarly sharp critiques from other notable NBA figures including Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James and Steph Curry, star guard for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors..

James called Trump a "bum" after the president tweeted that he was withdrawing Curry's invitation to the White House.

At the time, the Warriors had not received a formal invitation to the White House. Trump's tweet and the response from James were posted a day after Curry ruled out accepting an invitation if it were to come.

Trump, meanwhile, has threatened to end "massive tax breaks" for the NFL and called for the firing or suspension of players who kneel during the national anthem.

Since last season, primarily black professional football players have knelt during the national anthem before games to protest racial inequality in the United States. The protests started after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year began kneeling during the anthem to protest police mistreatment of black Americans.

The NFL is slated to discuss the controversy at a meeting this week. In a memo obtained by CNBC, Commissioner Roger Goodell pledged to continue internal dialogue about key issues and said a plan will be reviewed at the meeting. He didn't provide further details on what the proposed plan would entail.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said the Trump administration "would certainly support the NFL coming out and asking the players to stand" during the national anthem. She said the administration is glad to see the NFL "take positive steps in that direction."

Read Popovich's full remarks on The Nation.

— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk and Matthew Belvedere contributed to this report.

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