Gregg Popovich pays tribute to civil rights icon John Lewis: 'You really feel an absence'

The sports world gathered to honor the memory of civil rights icon and Georgia Rep. John Lewis on Saturday. Hank Aaron, LeBron James and Bill Russell were among the most prominent voices to pay tribute to Lewis.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich provided his thoughts Sunday, praising Lewis’ never-ending fight for equality. Popovich — who is among the most outspoken coaches in the NBA — also suggested a way other politicians could work to keep Lewis’ memory alive.

Popovich’s full statement read:

“[Lewis has] been such an iconic figure for so long. It’s hard not to feel the loss of somebody who has been so important for our country. He’s a rare combination of an abundance of courage, and at the same time, amazing humility. Nothing was ever about him. It was always about the work that he wanted to do to try to make this nation live up to its promises. And that — I always felt — was really special about him. He was always hopeful. He was always ready for the fight — in a good way. He pushed America. He pushed white privilege. Kind of ironic that white privilege and white supremacy kept those promises from being fully realized. And he — who was downtrodden — made sure that he never gave up and continued to push this country in the right direction.

“So, he — along with many others obviously — he was one of those special people that now that he is gone, you really feel an absence — an absence of decency, an absence of righteous effort for justice for everybody. And hopefully we can move on in a way that honors what he did his whole life. You know, the opposite of what is going on now with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. So all those politicians that are praising Congressman Lewis on the one hand are the same people that are willing to guy the Voting Rights Act that he worked so hard for. That, I think, is disgusting.”

Lewis fought to modernize the Voting Rights Act, which was gutted in 2013. The House passed the legislation in December 2019, but Republicans haven’t brought the issue to vote. That responsibility falls to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who also paid tribute to Lewis on Saturday. Despite the legislation being passed in 2019, McConnell hasn’t brought it to vote in the Senate.

Russell also mentioned passing the Voting Rights Act in his tweet about Lewis.

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