The Dallas Mavericks have stopped playing the national anthem before home games at the direction of owner Mark Cuban, he confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday.
The Mavericks do not plan to resume the tradition to play the national anthem before games in the future.
Cuban, who declined further comment, made the decision after consulting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. The Mavericks did not announce the change in policy, but the national anthem has not been played before any of their 13 preseason and regular-season games at the American Airlines Center this season.
No players, coaches or staffers from other teams have mentioned the change, according to a team source.
The NBA’s rulebook requires players to stand during the national anthem, but Silver has declined to enforce that rule, particularly as kneeling during the anthem became a popular way to protest social injustice in recent years. The vast majority of NBA players and many coaches kneeled during the national anthem during the NBA’s restart last summer in Orlando, Florida, when the league incorporated messaging supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice causes in the court design and other ways.
“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 during a news conference in December.
In a June interview on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Cuban expressed support for players kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest.
“If they were taking a knee and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them. Hopefully I’d join them,” Cuban said.
Cuban added then that he hoped the league would “allow players to do what’s in their heart.”
“Whether it’s holding their arm 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,” Cuban said. “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.
“I’ll defer to [Silver] on any final judgments and [players’ union executive director] Michele Roberts. But the reality is, my hope is we’ll let the players do exactly what they think is the right thing to do.”
In 2017, Cuban voiced a different opinion after then-President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who were kneeling during the anthem to protest social injustice and police brutality.
“This is America, and I’m proud of people who speak out civilly. That’s who we are as a country,” Cuban said at the time. “I’ll be standing there with my hand over my heart. I think the players will be [standing]. I expect them to be.”
Three years later, as the Black Lives Matter movement continued to grow, Cuban explained what changed his mindset.
“Because I think we’ve learned a lot since 2017,” he told OTL in June. “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.
“So I’ll stand in unison with our players, whatever they choose to do. But again, when our players in the NBA do what’s in their heart, when they do what they feel represents who they are and look to move this country forward when it comes to race relationships, I think that’s a beautiful thing and I’ll be proud of them.”