- Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, opted not to play the national anthem before home games.
- Cuban said he supports his players kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest.
- NBA rulebook states players must stand during the national anthem, but the rule has not been enforced.
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The Dallas Mavericks opted not to play the national anthem prior to their first series of home games, team owner Mark Cuban told ESPN on Tuesday.
ESPN reported that Cuban consulted with NBA commissioner Adam Silver prior to making the decision, but told Insider his plans for the rest of the season hadn’t been decided.
He said reports that the Mavericks would no longer play the national anthem going forward were “incorrect,” adding, “we have not played it for the first 13 games of our season.”
The NBA, along with other professional sports leagues, has grappled with how to enforce its existing rules around the national anthem. Currently, the NBA rulebook states that players must stand during the anthem, but Commissioner Silver has not enforced that specific rule.
“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.
During the NBA’s summer bubble in Orlando, Florida, most players kneeled during the anthem in protest, and the league explicitly posted messages and graphics in support of Black Lives Matter and get out the vote initiatives.
Cuban offered his support to players on the issue in a June interview with ESPN. “If they were taking a knee and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them. Hopefully, I’d join them,” he said.
“Whether it’s holding their arms 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,” he continued. “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.”
The move shows a marked change in Cuban’s attitude. In 2017, Cuban said he “expected” players to stand for the anthem. This past summer, Cuban told ESPN that his views evolved in part due to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Because I think we’ve learned a lot since 2017,” he said. “I think we’ve evolved as a country. And this is really a unique point in time where we can grow as a society, we can grow as a country and become far more inclusive, and become far more aware of the challenges that minority communities go through.”
Insider reached out to the NBA for comment.