Mavericks owner Mark Cuban directed the team to stop playing the anthem before the season, according to multiple reports, and a team spokesperson on Wednesday initially said there were no plans to play the anthem in the future.
“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,” the statement said.
The Mavericks then announced that the anthem will be played prior to its game against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
“We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country,” said Cuban after the league’s announcement. “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 Mavericks had not played a game in front of any fans until this Monday, when the team welcomed 1,500 vaccinated essential workers — including first responders, medical personnel, transportation workers among others — to the arena.
NBA anthem policy states that: “Players, coaches and trainers must stand and line up in a dignified posture along the foul lines during the playing of the American and/or Canadian National Anthems.”
During the NBA’s restart in the Orlando bubble last summer, Commissioner Adam Silver declined to enforce the rule as players began kneeling for the anthem due to protests against police brutality and advocating for social justice.
In an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Line” in June 2020, Cuban said he hoped the league “would allow players to do what is in their heart” when it comes to the playing of the anthem.
“Whether it’s holding an 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. 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.”
He later said in the interview: “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.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to the initial news that the Mavericks have not been playing the anthem on Wednesday, noting that she hadn’t spoken to President Joe Biden about the matter.
“I know that he’s incredibly proud to be an American. He has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents, especially for our men and women serving in uniform all around the world,” she said.
“He’d also say that, of course, that part of the pride of our country means recognizing moments where we as a country haven’t lived up to our highest ideals, which is often and at times what people are speaking to when they take action at sporting events.
“And it means respecting the right of people, granted to them in the Constitution, to peacefully protest. That’s why he ran for president in the first place and that’s what he’s focused on doing every day.”