San Antonio Spurs Link Arms for Equality Before Season Opener

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Before kicking off their season opener Thursday evening, Spurs athletes and coaches stood silently on the court and linked arms as this message appeared on the Jumbotron: "We understand your desire to attend out games as an escape and chose form of entertainment. In fact, we feel there is a significant commonality in all of us that allows our community to be so special."

It went on: "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."

The opposing team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, joined the Spurs in linking arms during this moment of silence.

Linking arms before a game has recently become a sign of solidarity and resistance in professional athletics — even though some see it as a watered-down version of athletes kneeling during the national anthem. It's a gesture that began in September 2016, when then-49er Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality against people of color, and reached a boiling point last month, when hundreds of NFL players opted to kneel or link arms during the anthem at games across the country — a response to President Donald Trump publicly scolding Kaepernick's actions.

Unlike the NFL protests, the Spurs didn't link arms until after the national anthem ended, and they weren't drowned in boos from the audience. Instead, fans cheered and clapped as soon as the team linked their arms together. Former Spurs stars Tim Duncan and David Robinson joined their teammates and coaches in the gesture.

If you've been following head coach Gregg Popovich's steady stream of commentary on the Trump presidency, this action should come as no surprise. Since Trump began his campaign for the White House, Popovich, a U.S. Air Force veteran, has offered thoughtful criticism and opposition to the way the reality TV star runs the country — and his mouth.

The most recent comment came on Tuesday, when Popovich called Trump a "soulless coward" in an interview with Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation. In September, when asked about NFL players' decision to kneel during the anthem, he told reporters: "Here's what we say to our team ... Each one of them has the right and ability to say what they would like to say and act the way they'd like to act. We live in a difficult time and it doesn't do a whole lot of good to focus on the divisiveness."


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