The NBA told its teams Wednesday afternoon that they must play the national anthem before home games, a day after Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban confirmed his team hadn’t been doing so.
Cuban said he never intended to fully cease playing the anthem.
“With NBA teams now in the process of welcoming fans back into their arenas, all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy,” the NBA’s statement read.
The Mavericks have played 11 regular-season home games this season, but Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves was the first with fans in attendance.
Cuban confirmed to the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday night that it was his decision to do away with the anthem and that other teams were told of his decision without objection. The Athletic also reported that NBA commissioner Adam Silver was made aware of the decision.
The Mavericks resumed playing the anthem before their game against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, and Cuban talked about the controversy on ESPN.
“There was never any final decision that was made that we would not play the anthem,” Cuban said. “In listening to the community, there were quite a few people who voiced their concerns, really their fears that the national anthem did not fully represent them, that their voices were not being heard.
“So we’ve had a lot of conversations about whether or not we should play the anthem. And so during the first preseason game, we decided to not play it and just see what the response was, knowing that we were going to have ongoing conversations about it.
“We didn’t make any decision to never play the national anthem then -- that wasn’t the case at all. We didn’t cancel the national anthem. We still had our flag flying proud up on the wall at the American Airlines Center and everybody had the opportunity to address it and pray to it or salute to it or whatever their feelings are.”
The Mavericks released a statement from Cuban earlier.
“We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country,” Cuban said in the statement. “But we also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them. We feel that their voices need to be respected and heard, because they have not been. Going forward, our hope is that people will take the same passion they have for this issue and apply the same amount of energy to listen to those who feel differently from them. Only then we can move forward and have courageous conversations that move this country forward and find what unites us.”
On Monday, free tickets to the game at American Airlines Center were given to about 1,500 front-line workers who had received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Criticism to news of Cuban’s initial decision not to play the anthem came rapidly from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who addressed Cuban directly on Twitter.
“Your decision to cancel our National Anthem at @dallasmavs games is a slap in the face to every American & an embarrassment to Texas,” wrote Patrick, a Republican. “Sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it.”
While NBA rules require players to stand for the playing of the anthem, Silver hasn’t enforced that regulation. NBA players were particularly outspoken about using the anthem as a time for protest last summer in the midst of social unrest following the killing of George Floyd.
Silver said in December regarding standing for the anthem, “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.”
Cuban came out last year in favor of players taking a knee during the anthem. He told ESPN in June 2020, “If they were taking a knee and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them. Hopefully I’d join them.”
--Field Level Media
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.