[UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon, the NBA announced that all teams will play the national anthem before games, per league policy. Cuban said the Mavericks would comply and would continue exploring the matter.]
The Dallas Mavericks are not playing the national anthem before its home games this season, something that apparently drew attention with a limited number of fans allowed into American Airlines Center for the first time this season Monday night.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban confirmed to The Athletic that he made the decision not to play the anthem this season and going forward. Upon being asked by other media outlets, including the New York Times, about the decision, Cuban stated that he came to this conclusion months ago.
“It was my decision, and I made it in November,” Cuban said to the Times‘ Marc Stein. He declined to elaborate further.
As The Athletic’s Tim Cato reports, the Mavericks haven’t played the anthem before any of its 13 preseason and regular-season games during the 2020-21 season thus far. Several team employees told Cato that they noticed the anthem’s absence on their own. No decision was announced or explained by the team to its staff.
But with fans in attendance Monday night, including vaccinated essential workers and first-responders, the anthem not being played attracted more notice.
Cuban has never been afraid to confront an issue about which he feels strongly. Typically, he doesn’t dodge controversy. And he will surely face plenty of outrage and criticism for this decision regarding the national anthem.
Whether or not the NBA agrees with the Mavericks removing the anthem from pregame activities isn’t clear. But the league is supporting the decision, telling media outlets, “Under the unique circumstances of this season, teams are permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit.”
The NBA does have a rule requiring players to stand during the national anthem but hasn’t enforced the policy in recent years as many players have chosen to kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to draw attention to police violence, social injustice, and systemic racism in the country.
In December, NBA commissioner Adam Silver explained why the league wouldn’t be enforcing that rule on players.
“I recognize that this is a very emotional issue on both sides of the equation in America right now,” Silver said during a press conference, “and I think it calls for real engagement rather than rule enforcement.”
Last July, while the NBA prepared to restart its 2019-20 season in the Orlando bubble, Cuban voiced his support for Mavericks players kneeling during the anthem.
“If they were taking a knee and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them,” Cuban told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap. “Hopefully, I’d join them.”
Weeks later, he responded to a Dallas radio host criticizing Mavs players for kneeling in a since-deleted tweet.
“The National Anthem Police in this country are out of control,” said Cuban. “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.”
The Mavericks are scheduled for a national ESPN telecast Wednesday night (Feb. 10) against the Atlanta Hawks at 7:30 p.m. ET. Will the broadcast devote any focus to this storyline before the game?