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Dallas Mavericks To Resume Playing National Anthem Following Pushback From The NBA

The Dallas Mavericks will resume playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before their games at American Airlines Center, after an initial decision that reportedly came directly from owner Mark Cuban.
Ronald Martinez
Getty Images
The Dallas Mavericks will resume playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before their games at American Airlines Center, after an initial decision that reportedly came directly from owner Mark Cuban.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. ET

The NBA says every team — including the Dallas Mavericks — must play the national anthem in their arenas, after news emerged that team owner Mark Cuban had ordered the Mavericks to discontinue the long-held practice.

"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," said NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass in a statement on Wednesday.

After the NBA issued its stance, a Mavericks representative told NPR, "The anthem will play before tonight's game."

Cuban also issued his own statement:

"We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country. I have always stood for the anthem with the hand over my heart — no matter where I hear it played. But we also hear the voices of those who do not feel the anthem represents them. We feel they also need to be respected and heard, because they have not been heard. The hope is that those who feel passionate about the anthem being played will be just as passionate in listening to those who do not feel it represents them."

The NBA statement was an apparent reversal of what a spokesperson initially told media outlets after news spread of Cuban's decision to omit the anthem.

Citing the "unique circumstances" of the current season, NBA spokesman Tim Frankwas quoted telling The Associated Press, "Teams are permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit."

The anthem has become a subject of controversy in many sports, with players often using the pregame ritual to silently protest against racial injustice in the United States.

Cuban's plan was first reported by The Athletic website, which had inquired about the team skipping the song before games this season. The Athletic said that Cuban confirmed the omission late Monday — the same day the Mavericks hosted their first game with in-person fans at the American Airlines Center.

Cuban has not provided details about the process that led to the decision. In response to NPR's request for comment on Wednesday, a Mavericks representative confirmed only that the team hasn't been playing the anthem.

In the past, Cuban has expressed frustration with people who complain about athletes' attempts to call attention to systemic racism during "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"The National Anthem Police in this country are out of control," Cuban said in a July 2020 tweet. "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."

Cuban later deleted the message. But his stance drew retorts from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and then-President Donald Trump, who said that protests during the anthem show a lack of respect.

News of the team's national anthem policy was met with a range of reaction online, as people use the Mavericks' social media pages to comment on the shift. Some called the move unpatriotic. Others called the anthem an unnecessary formality that's often skipped in games' TV coverage.

"Sad to say as a life long fan I'm done with the Mavs," one message reads. But another states, "National Anthem doesn't represent us," calling the song "divisive."

The anthem's absence did not draw an apparent response at Monday night's game, when the Mavericks opened their arena to a limited number of fans — 1,500 vaccinated front-line workers and first responders the team had invited to attend.

Like many other NBA teams, the Mavericks suspended attendance along with their season last March, when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.

The NBA has long had a rule requiring players and coaches to stand for the national anthem at the start of games. But the policy was relaxed last year after teams gathered inside a "bubble" in Florida to play out the rest of its interrupted season.

Some players and teams have continued to kneel this year, citing ongoing inequality and last month's riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.