With NFL players captivating sports fans by kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and social inequality, all eyes turned to the start of the NBA season to see if basketball players would kneel in solidarity, or whether they would find other ways to make their voices heard. Surprising to no one, the most notable act came from the San Antonio Spurs before their opening night game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Prior to the season, NBA commissioner Adam Silver reminded the league that there was a rule in place that requires NBA players to stand for the national anthem. NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum released a follow-up statement calling for teams to find other ways to cultivate awareness for social change. Tatum and Silver suggested, in some sort of compromise, that teams instead show a video message before the game, promoting social change or have a player or coach address the crowd directly. The Spurs stepped up and took the NBA up on their offer, showing a video message on their Jumbotron, while players past and present interlocked arms prior to Wednesday’s game.
“There are things happening in our communities that need our attention,” the message read. “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.”
The message went on to say, “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.” Manu Ginobili echoed the sentiment, posting the message to his Twitter account Thursday morning along with a photo that showed the Argentine legend interlocking arms with his Big Three teammates, the injured Tony Parker and the retired Tim Duncan.
The crowd received the message with open arms according to Coach Gregg Popovich, who has been vocally critical of the country’s political and racial state. “They obviously also buy into the message that was sent up on the JumboTron,” Popovich said. “I’m so proud to be in this city when you have fans that understand that it’s important for everybody. Kudos to our fans.”