At the request of team owner Mark Cuban, the Mavericks have stopped playing the national anthem before home games, and they do not plan to bring back the tradition.
Cuban told The New York Times’ Marc Stein on Tuesday that removing the anthem from pregame ceremonies was a decision he made back in November. The Athletic’s Tim Cato, who first reported on the change, noted that none of Dallas’ preseason or regular season games held at the American Airlines Center this season have featured the anthem.
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The Mavericks did not release an official statement on the removal of the anthem, and Cuban declined to comment further on his decision. It was also not discussed internally, as multiple team employees only realized on their own that the anthem was no longer being played, per Cato.
An NBA spokesperson told multiple outlets that teams are permitted to “run their pregame operations as they see fit” because of the “unique circumstances this season.” Other teams have decided to play recordings of the national anthem before home games.
While the league rulebook calls for all players to stand for the anthem, NBA commissioner Adam Silver chose not to enforce the policy as the 2019-20 season resumed in the Florida “bubble” and carried over that approach into the 2020-21 campaign. In recent years, kneeling during the anthem has become a popular way to protest racism and social injustice, and the league wanted to offer its support for the Black Lives Matter movement and other similar causes.
“I recognize that this is a very emotional issue on both sides of the equation in America right now, and I think it calls for real engagement rather than rule enforcement,” Silver said in December.
In an interview last year with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, Cuban voiced his support for players who would choose to respectfully kneel for the anthem, saying, “Hopefully I’d join them.”
“Whether it’s holding their arm up in the air, whether it’s taking a knee, whatever it is, I don’t think this is an issue of respect or disrespect to the flag or to the anthem or to our country,” Cuban said. “I think this is more a reflection of our players’ commitment to this country and the fact that it’s so important to them that they’re willing to say what’s in their heart and do what they think is right.
“I’ll defer to [commissioner] Adam [Silver] on any final judgments and [players’ union executive director] Michele Roberts. But the reality is, my hope is we’ll let the players do exactly what they think is the right thing to do.”
Cuban followed up that interview days later with a since-deleted tweet: “The National Anthem Police in this country are out of control. If you want to complain, complain to your boss and ask why they don’t play the National Anthem every day before you start work.”
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