SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thanked fans attending Wednesday's season-opening 107-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves for their rousing reception of the message of unity that the club posted on its scoreboard after the playing of the national anthem.
"I want to congratulate our fans on the way they reacted at the beginning of the game after the national anthem was played," Popovich said in his postgame news conference. "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. Kudos to our fans."
The Spurs and Timberwolves stood for the national anthem as normal. But after the anthem, both squads locked arms while still standing on their respective ends on the court.
San Antonio franchise icons Tim Duncan and David Robinson also locked arms with the Spurs, as the team played a message of unity in slideshow fashion across the scoreboard that drew thunderous applause from the fans in attendance.
A league source said Spurs players felt strongly about putting out the message and that Duncan attended the game just to be a part of that message. The last time Duncan had attended a game at AT&T Center was when the Spurs retired his jersey in December.
"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.
"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."
Popovich has drawn scorn for critical remarks against President Donald Trump since the day after the 2016 presidential election. Spurs point guard Danny Green said it was important for the team to stand up for its coach, who has spoken out in support of players for the better part of the past year.
Several players mentioned the team came to a collective decision to release Wednesday's message for the opener. Green said the team was proud of the reception that the message received.
"Obviously, we have heard that he's gotten some backlash," Green said. "But regardless, he's speaking out for us. And we have to speak out for him and back him for him taking a stand. Obviously, some of his comments have been criticized. But we felt we should do something. There's been back and forth about what we should do. But I thought it was good. I didn't think it was too much. I said we've got to back our coach, especially when he's speaking out for us."
Newly acquired forward Rudy Gay called the crowd's reception good.
"That's the meaning of unity, just being united, being one," Gay said. "We've been divided for a long time. It was all shapes, colors and sizes in that arena today. For everybody to be on the same page, it meant a lot."