After Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and shark on the popular start-up reality show Shark Tank, quietly stopped playing the National Anthem at home basketball games, the NBA stepped in and over turned his decision.
For years, Americans have witnessed the politicization of America’s national anthem. Players have kneeled during its rendition ahead games, claiming the flag does not represent them and that America was founded on and continues to be systemically racist, while millions of fans have turned away from watching sports calling the protests disrespectful to soldiers who scarified their lives fighting for our freedoms.
For months, Cuban kept the team from playing the anthem without much media attention. “None of 13 preseason and regular-season games played at the American Airlines Center this season have featured the anthem before the game, including Monday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the first played this season with a limited amount of fans in attendance,” The Athletic reported.
According to NBA rules and regulations, all teams must play the Star Spangled Banner before each game, and all players must stand. The rule has not been enforced as of late, largely because of Black Lives Matter protests have intertwined themselves with the act of kneeling.
Cuban reportedly told The Athletic that they would continue to forgo the century old sporting tradition as fans return to the stands.
In an interview with ESPN, Cuban said they never made a “final decision” to stop playing the Star Spangled Banner ahead of games. It started with the first preseason game and snowballed from there. However, Cuban does take full credit and responsibility for making the decision to continue skipping the anthem.
“We’re always talking to our community. That’s something [Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall] stands for and is very insistent upon and has become a core part of who we are at the Dallas Mavericks,” Cuban told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on Wednesday. “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.”ESPN interview with Mark Cuban
According to CBS Sports, “a source close to Cuban said the decision to not play the anthem before games wasn’t because the franchise lacks love for the United States, but rather because many in the organization feel that the anthem “doesn’t represent them.” They were looking for “ways of representing people from all communities while also honoring the U.S. at games.”
As Cuban’s unilateral decision became public, likely because fans were finally permitted inside the stadium to witness the Anthem’s absence, the NBA released a short and scathing statement against the Maverick’s owner.
“With NBA teams now in the process of welcoming fans back into their arenas,” NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass said in the statement, “all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy.”
In his response, agreeing to play the Star Spangled Banner from here on out in compliance with league rule, Cuban reaffirms his original assertion that the Anthem does not represent many of his players.
“We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country. 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.”Mark Cuban
Cuban will however encourage players to kneel if they so choose to, and signaled his willingness to join in.
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