Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said Tuesday night he had instructed the team to stop playing the national anthem ahead of this season’s home games.
“It was my decision and I made it in November,” said Cuban. He declined to comment further.
The Mavericks did not announce the new policy, but Cubans were allowed to enact it because the NBA allowed teams to “conduct their pregame operations at their own discretion due to” the special circumstances this season, “a league spokesman said.
Nearly two-thirds of the league’s 30 teams are still not allowing fans to play home games as the NBA grapples with the complexities of running a 72-game season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Dallas is believed to be the only team in the league to have given up the anthem at home games, a decision that was made first reported by The Athletic. Other teams have continued to play recorded versions of the anthem.
The league’s rulebook has mandated players to stand during the national anthem since the 1980s, but Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, said in December that the rule would not be strictly enforced this season. The league also chose not to enforce the rule during the 2019-20 season restart in a bubble setting at Walt Disney World, Florida, where many players chose to kneel during the anthem to provide support for the Black Lives Matter- Movement to show and demonstrate against systemic racism and social injustice in the United States.
“I realize this is a very emotional problem in America right now on both sides of the equation, and I think it takes real commitment, not enforcement,” Silver said in December.
The anthem was not played before any of the Mavericks’ 13 home games in the preseason or regular season this season at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. In a Monday night win over Minnesota, Dallas became one of the 11 teams in the league to take in fewer spectators – 1,500 frontline healthcare and hospitality workers, as well as police officers, firefighters and other rescue workers.
However, this isn’t the first time in franchise history that the club refuses to play the national anthem before the Games. For the first 16 years of its existence when owned by Donald Carter, Instead, “God Bless America” was sung in the old Reunion Arena before the home games. The Mavericks began playing the national anthem after the team was purchased by Ross Perot Jr. on May 1, 1996. Cubans bought the Mavericks in January 2000.
In an interview on ESPN’s Outside the Lines last June, before the NBA resumed the 2019-20 season, the Cuban said he would support players who knelt in protest during the anthem.
“If you took one knee and were respectful, I would be proud of you,” said the Cuban. “Hopefully I would join them.”
The Cuban did not accompany the Mavericks to the bubble in Disney World, but said shortly after his ESPN appearance on Twitter: “The National Anthem Police in this country are out of control. If you want to complain, complain to your boss and ask why he doesn’t play the national anthem every day before work starts. “