San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’s “embarrassed as a white person” that George Floyd could die in such a “nonchalant” manner. The 71-year-old Popovich addressed Floyd’s death in a video released Saturday by the Spurs as part of the team's #SpursVoices social media series. Floyd was in handcuffs when a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Derek Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. “In a strange, counterintuitive sort of way, the best teaching moment of this recent tragedy, I think, was the look on the officer’s face,” Popovich said. “For white people to see how nonchalant, how casual, just how everyday-going-about-his job, so much so that he could just put his left hand in his pocket, wriggle his knee around a little bit to teach this person some sort of a lesson -- and that it was his right and his duty to do it, in his mind. ... “I think I’m just embarrassed as a white person to know that that can happen. To actually watch a lynching. We’ve all seen books, and you look in the books and you see black people hanging off of trees. ... But we just saw it again. I never thought I’d see that, with my own eyes, in real time. “It’s like the neighborhood where you know there’s a dangerous corner, and you know that something’s going to happen someday, and nobody does anything. And then a young kid gets killed and a stop sign goes up. Well, without getting too political, we’ve got a lot of stop signs that need to go up -- quickly -- because our country is in trouble. And the basic reason is race.” Popovich said white people must help lead the charge for change. “We have to do it. Black people have been shouldering this burden for 400 years,” Popovich said. “The only reason this nation has made the progress it has is because of the persistence, patience and effort of black people. The history of our nation from the very beginning in many ways was a lie, and we continue to this day, mostly black and brown people, to try to make that lie a truth so that it is no longer a lie. And those rights and privileges are enjoyed by people of color, just like we enjoy them. So it’s got to be us, in my opinion, that speak truth to power, and call it out, no matter what the consequences. We have to speak. We have to not let anything go.” Popovich has led the Spurs to five NBA titles and is a three-time coach of the year. He's set to coach the United States in the Tokyo Olympics.
Kurt Thomas, the first U.S. male gymnast to win a world championship gold medal, has died. He was 64. Thomas’ family said he died Friday. He had a stroke May 24, caused by a tear of the basilar artery in the brain stem. “Yesterday, I lost my universe, my best friend and my soulmate of 24 years. Kurt lived his life to the extreme, and I will be forever honored to be his wife,” Beckie Thomas told International Gymnast Magazine. After competing in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Thomas won the floor exercise in the 1978 world championships in Strasbourg, France, for the first U.S. men’s title. In the 1979 worlds in Fort Worth, Texas, he successfully defended the floor exercise title and won the horizontal bar while adding silver in the all-around, pommel horse and parallel bars. Thomas. who also captured the American Cup three times, lost a chance for Olympic gold when the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games. “In my mind and my heart, I knew I was the best at that time,” Thomas told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1989. Thomas brought a mixture of athleticism and showmanship the elite U.S. men’s program lacked. He starred at Indiana State and led the Sycamores to an NCAA team title in 1977. His popularity on campus at the time ranked second only to future basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird. Thomas won the AAU’s 1979 James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur and was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2003. “Kurt was a fierce rival, who went on to become a cherished friend,' two-time Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner posted on Twitter. “Proud to have been your teammate. Sending hugs to his wife Beckie, his children, Hunter, Kassidy and Kurt as well as the entire gymnastics community, who lost a true pioneer today.” Thomas stepped away competition after 1980 and starred in the 1985 movie “Gymkata” and worked as a television commentator. He attempted a comeback in 1989, pointing toward the 1992 Olympics. He made it all the way to the Olympic Trials at age 36 but fell short of earning one of the six Olympic spots. He poured his life into coaching after retirement. He and Beckie owned and ran Kurt Thomas Gymnastics in Frisco, Texas. American men had struggled to break through internationally before Thomas' arrival. He was an innovator on pommel horse — where the “Thomas Flair” was entered into the Code of Points — and the floor exercise, where his “Thomas Salto” dismount was considered so dangerous it was eventually banned from competition. Thomas, who appeared regularly on late night talk shows in the 1970s, was the first breakthrough American male star in a sport where the spotlight gravitates heavily toward women. “All of us in the gymnastics family are sadden, shocked and devastated by the passing of our own,” Nadia Comaneci tweeted. “Love to the family.”
A.J. Allmendinger finally won on an oval. He might just retire. Taking advantage of mistakes by the three leaders, the 38-year-old Californian cruised to victory by nearly 2 seconds over pole-sitter Noah Gragson in the Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday. 'Oh my god,” Allmendinger said as he climbed from his No. 16 Chevrolet. “I won on an oval.” Indeed, he did. Allmendinger, who first came to prominence in open-wheel racing, claimed a single victory during more than a decade in the top-level Cup series, and he had three previous Xfinity wins — all on road courses. Now, he's filled in a big hole on his resume. “All I ever wanted to do was win on an oval,” said Allmendinger, who has only a part-time job in the Xfinity Series after losing his Cup ride after the 2018 season. “I have a lot of success in so many forms of racing.” Allmendinger started 30th but quickly showed the strength of his car, spending much of the day running in the top 10. Then, after the final caution of the day, the top three cars — Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Justin Allgaier — were all caught speeding on pit road. That pushed Allmendinger into the top spot on the restart with 34 laps to go. He held on the rest of the way. “I still think that even if they had started in front of us, we could've beat them on a long run,” Allmendinger said. “But that clean air was definitely a big deal.” He appeared to be a rising star after capturing five victories on road and street circuits in the now-defunct Champ Car series in 2006. Allmendinger accepted a lucrative offer from Red Bull to move into NASCAR, but never fulfilled his promise in the oval-dominated series. His career took another setback when he was suspended in 2012 after testing positive for a banned stimulant. Allmendinger did a few races in IndyCar and worked to rebuild his reputation, finally returning to a full-time ride in the Cup Series — even claiming his first victory at Watkins Glen. Yet he never shook his reputation as a road-course ringer. “Heck, I might just retire,” Allmendinger quipped. “I just wanted to win on a damn oval.” Cindric had the strongest car early on, winning the first two stages. But his mistake heading into the pits knocked him back to a 16th-place finish. Allgaier salvaged a sixth-place showing, while Briscoe settled for ninth. Gragson crossed the line second but picked up a $100,000 bonus from the title sponsor. He was closing the gap on Allmendinger in the closing laps, only to get hoodwinked by the more experienced driver. Allmendinger gave the impression that his tires were fading, duping Gragson into making a furious run for the front. Turns out, Allmendinger's tires had more grip than he was letting on. Gragson didn't have anything left at the end. “I got beat by his experience,” the 21-year-old Gragson conceded. “He had the bait waiting there. I took it, and he reeled me in.” ___ Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and find his work at https://apnews.com ___ More AP NASCAR: https://apnews.com/NASCAR and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports