When Spurs coach Gregg Popovich ripped Zaza Pachulia last week for being a dirty player, he surely did not mean to impugn the Warriors center’s off-court character or worth as a human being. And he certainly did not mean to suggest that Pachulia and his family should face bodily harm as punishment for him injuring Kawhi Leonard’s ankle.
And yet, because sports fans are dumb, Pachulia has received death threats since Popovich’s comments, according to USA Today.
But what Pachulia can’t tolerate and what he wishes Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would have considered when he fanned the rage of so many fans by deeming the 33-year-old a dirty player and even comparing the play to “manslaughter,” are the social media threats to his family that have left them all shaken. While Pachulia was hesitant to share too many details, the situation was serious enough that security guards were deployed to the entrance of his childrens’ school in the San Francisco Bay Area as a precaution.
“I don’t blame everything on Pop, but what he said had a lot of influence (and) you had a lot of people where, unfortunately, you can’t control what everybody’s intelligence is,” Pachulia, who has an 8-year-old son, a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter with his wife, told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday. “(Fans) just hear the message, and it’s, ‘OK, Pop said so and now let’s do this.’ It’s just wrong. You’ve got to think, and realize. Threaten me, but don’t threaten my wife or say something about my kids. It’s just wrong.
“Me as a person, as a man, I don’t mind dealing with it. But I hate to see my family deal with it. My wife and my kids who have nothing to do with it, who are very innocent. … I just hate my family going through that. They don’t deserve that. … I’m not blaming everything on (Popovich), but he was a very big part of it.”
It is incredibly shitty that Pachulia and his family have had to endure death threats because he hurt someone’s ankle during a basketball game—whether it was intentional or not. There is no good reason to terrorize someone’s family, and this is among the worst reasons.
If you missed it, Pachulia seemed to stick his foot beneath Leonard’s ankle during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, causing the Spurs to blow a large lead and then lose the next two games as well. Here’s the play:
There's no convincing me Zaza Pachulia wasn't trying to injure Kawhi Leonard. Dirty play. pic.twitter.com/O2vn3SSfKd
— Dan Molloy (@DanMolloyTV) May 14, 2017
The play was controversial in itself, but Popovich stoked the flames by ranting against Pachulia’s play.
Obviously it’s not totally Popovich’s fault Pachulia is going through this. Though he really heaped the criticism on Pachulia (and probably didn’t need to invoke the manslaughter comparison), he presumably didn’t know fans would go off sending death threats. You have to wonder whether he’d take back some of his vitriol if he could.
If you’re the type of fan who threatens athletes’ families when they do something you don’t like on the court, we have some advice for you: Don’t do that.