SAN ANTONIO – Players and coaches of the Spurs and Timberwolves locked arms on Wednesday while a special message to fans was shown on the video board before San Antonio defeated Minnesota in the season-opening game for both teams.
The message was shown after the players and coaches stood for the national anthem. The message was about equality, social justice and freedom of speech.
Below is the message in its entirety:
"There are things happening in our communities that need our attention. We understand your desire to attend our games as an escape and chosen form of entertainment. In that, we feel there is a significant commonality in all of us that allows our community to be so special."
"That commonality should include aspirations for social justice, freedom of speech in its many forms, and equal opportunity for education, and economic advancement regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion."
"It is our hope that we can, as a community, inspire and evoke real change. We ask that you join with us in your daily lives in the pursuit of equality."
"And in that, we honor our country by exercising demands for what this great nation has promised and what our military continues to fight for."
Franchise legends David Robinson and Tim Duncan locked arms with the Spurs players and coaches on the court.
It was the first time Duncan had attended a game at the AT&T Center since his retirement ceremony last season. Tony Parker also locked arms with the team.
The NFL's national anthem debate has spread to other professional leagues. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has been critical of President Trump for a variety of topics, including Trump's comments about NFL players not standing for the national anthem.
Popovich has faced criticism himself for being so outspoken about Trump.
During his postgame press conference, Popovich thanked Spurs fans after the game for their reaction to the message.
"I want to congratulate our fans for the way they reacted at the beginning of the game after the national anthem was played," Popovich said. "They obviously also buy into the messages that were set up on the JumboTron. I'm so proud to be in this city when we have fans that understand that it's important for everybody. So kudos to our fans."
Spurs players Danny Green, Dejounte Murray and Rudy Gay said the pregame message was a collective idea.
"It was good, that's the meaning of it, unity. Being united, being one," said Gay. "We've been divided for a long time and it was all shapes, colors, sizes in that arena tonight and for everybody to be on the same page meant a lot."
Other NBA teams including the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards have locked arms before their regular season opener.