On Tuesday, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban confirmed that he directed the team to stop playing the national anthem before home games and has no plans for it to return in the future, according to a report by ESPN. The team did not officially announce the change, but the national anthem has yet to be played through their 13 preseason and regular-season games at the American Airlines Center. While he did not add any further comments, Cuban did acknowledge that the decision came after consulting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. A Mavericks team source also told ESPN that no players, coaches or staffers from other teams had mentioned the decision to remove the anthem, which has seen a growing amount of players kneel during its runtime in a protest against social injustice.
The Mavericks owner has previously voiced his support for players who choose to protest during the national anthem, telling ESPN's Outside the Lines in June 2020 that he was willing to join them.
"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. 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," Cuban said.
During that same interview, Cuban spoke about his growth since he voiced less receptive comments on the protests in 2017. In those previous comments, he said he would stand for the anthem and expected the players to do the same. The Mavericks owner said the country has evolved since 2017 and has the responsibility to be more inclusive and aware of the challenges facing minority communities.
While players in the NBA are required to stand for the national anthem according to the league's rulebook, it has not been enforced as players began to protest. When the NBA continued its regular season inside of a bubble in Orlando, Florida, following a delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of coaches and players kneeled during the anthem in response to the death of George Floyd and protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on the streets. The NBA was supportive of the effort, placing messages associated with Black Lives Matter and other causes on the court and in the game's presentation.
Silver spoke about the decision to ignore the rule and support the protest by the players during a news conference in December.
"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," he said.