BLOG: Steve Kerr, other sports figures opposed to Trump wasted their chance to make a difference

Posted at 6:21 PM, Nov 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-12 22:03:50-05

Shortly after Ronald Reagan won the 1980 presidential election, a British band called Heaven 17 released “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang,” a song that painted the new President-elect as a racist warmonger.

I hadn’t heard the song until it popped up on the radio a few years ago. After listening to it, my first thought was this: Why wait until after the election to write and record such a song?

If the members of Heaven 17 believed Reagan was truly as awful as they described, why wouldn’t they release an anti-Reagan ballad before Americans went to the polls, in an attempt to convince them to vote differently?

That same thought has crossed my mind more than once since Tuesday, as a number of figures from the world of sports, including a trio of NBA head coaches, have gone on lengthy, passionate rants about the election of Donald Trump. 

“It’s tough when you want there to be some respect and dignity and there hasn’t been any. And then you walk into a room with your daughter and your wife, who’ve basically been insulted by his comments, and they’re distraught,” Warriors coach and former Arizona Wildcats star Steve Kerr said during a 2-minute rant Wednesday."Now all of a sudden, you're faced with the reality that the man who is going to lead you has routinely used racist, misogynist, insulting words. That's a tough one."

Hours earlier, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy ripped Trump before Wednesday's game vs. the Suns in Phoenix.

“I don’t think anybody can deny this guy is openly and brazenly racist and misogynist,” Van Gundy said. “We have just thrown a good part of our population under the bus, and I have problems with thinking this is where we are as a country.”

Not to be outdone, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich went on a 6-minute rant Friday.

"I'm just sick to my stomach. Not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenor and tone and all of the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. I live in that country where half of the people ignored all of that to elect someone,” he said.

There's no doubt many Americans are sick of politics colliding with sports. But this isn’t a “stick to sports” column. (After all: As a sportswriter, that would be a tad hypocritical of me.) All three coaches have a voice and have a perfect right to use it -- and when they speak, they clearly have their country’s best interest at heart.

But just as with Heaven 17’s song in 1980, my question is this: If you feel so strongly that the new President-elect is bad for America, why wait until after Tuesday’s election to speak out?

If Trump's presidency is going to be difficult to discuss with his wife and daughters, why didn't Kerr deliver his rant before the election? If Van Gundy and Popovich believe Trump has perpetuated racism and bigotry and will continue to do so, why didn't they do what they could to try to prevent him from becoming president in the first place?

To be clear, this isn’t the first time Kerr and Popovich have opined on socio-political issues. While he was the general manager of the Phoenix Suns, Kerr was a vocal opponent of SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law. And last month, Popovich did voice concerns about the overall direction of the country,although he didn't denounce Trump specifically.

But both men, along with Van Gundy, didn't deliver their most passionate, public complaints about Trump until a good 24 to 72 hours after he became President-elect.

Obviously, all three men believe an injustice occurred in America on Tuesday – but ranting after the fact did nothing to prevent that injustice.

Perhaps Kerr & Co. didn't speak up sooner because they thought Trump didn’t have much of a chance to win – and indeed, nearly every pollster in the country thought that way, too.

That’s no excuse. The fact that Trump had even an outside chance at victory should have been more than enough motivation for them to make their voices heard.

Credit should go to sports figures who were politically active before the election, such as LeBron James, who campaigned for Hillary Clinton in his home state of Ohio the weekend before Election Day. Others such as former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight and Bills coach Rex Ryan campaigned for Trump.

Regardless of your opinion of their respective candidates, all of these men should be admired. They made their voices loud and clear in the months and days leading up to the election – which is more than can be said for those who have resorted to complaining after the fact.

The year 2016 has seen an uptick in political activism in the sports world. That activism, and the discussion in generates, should be welcomed by sports fans. There's nothing wrong with more opinions in the public sphere, and if they upset you, you're free to ignore them.

But for those who feel obligated to speak out, why not speak out when it matters most? Kerr, Popovich and Van Gundy had ample opportunity to denounce Trump -- but just like "Fascist Groove Thang," they waited until it was too late to make a difference in this election cycle.

If all three men feel the same way about Trump four years from now, hopefully we'll hear from them sooner than we did this time.