Spurs coach Gregg Popovich "singled out the fans" at AT&T Center last night for "cheering when a message espousing equality, social justice and freedom of speech flashed on the JumboTron after the national anthem," according to Tom Orsborn of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. The Spurs players and coaches, along with former players Tim Duncan and David Robinson, "linked arms on the court as the message was played." Popovich: “They obviously also buy into the message that was up on the JumboTron, and I am so proud to be in a city when you have fans that understand that (those values) are important for everybody. So kudos to our fans.” Spurs G Dejounte Murray said the message and the linking of arms was a way for the Spurs to show, “We’re all together, we’re all one.” He added, "It made us smile to hear them cheer. All you guys know what’s going on in the world today. We’ve got to come together" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 10/18). ESPN.com's Michael Wright noted the Spurs and T'Wolves "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." A source said that the Spurs' players "felt strongly about putting out the message and that Duncan attended the game just to be a part of that message." Popovich has "drawn scorn for critical remarks" against President Trump since the day after the '16 election. Spurs G Danny Green said that 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." Green said, "We have heard that he's gotten some backlash. But regardless, he's speaking out for us. And we have to speak out for him and back him for him taking a stand" (ESPN.com, 10/18).
FLAG DAY: In Ft. Worth, Stefan Stevenson noted an "ultra patriotic video featuring a tribute to the American flag played on the big overhead video board" before the national anthem for the Mavericks’ season opener against the Hawks last night at American Airlines Center. The video’s narrator, speaking as the flag, "lists a collection of milestone moments for the Mavs," including the '11 championship, as images of players, fans and Owner Mark Cuban "float by in a collage of red, white and blue pageantry." The video "received a loud round of cheers from fans and players for both teams stood per usual" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 10/18). In Dallas, Eddie Sefko notes the Mavs had no plans for a demonstration. One player said that the team "talked about it, but decided not to take any action" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/18).
TAKE A KNEE: In Detroit, Vince Ellis notes Pistons Owner Tom Gores "unequivocally said he would fully support a player" protesting during the anthem. Gores: "If that's what he wants to do, absolutely." The Pistons "stood during the anthem," but Gores "wondered openly why the two ideals can't co-exist" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 10/19). TNT’s Kenny Smith said of the potential for protests in the NBA, “If they feel they need to create more awareness in certain situations, I think they should do it. Protests are going to make the comfortable uncomfortable, it is just a natural process of it. ... Protest creates awareness, then creates change. That's the steps, you can't bypass it" ("NBA Tip-Off," TNT, 10/17).