Cuban told ESPN Tuesday that he made the decision to no longer play the national anthem for home games after consulting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. The Mavericks have not announced a change in policy, but the national anthem has only been played in 13 preseason and regular season games at the American Airlines Center this season.
“We’re always talking to our community. It’s something Mavericks Executive Director Cynthia Marshall advocates, something she insists on and something that has become an important part of our identity with the Dallas Mavericks,” a Cuban woman told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on Wednesday. “Listening to the community, a lot of people have expressed concern, really their concern, that the anthem doesn’t fully represent them, that their voice isn’t being heard. So we’ve had a lot of conversations about whether or not to play the national anthem.” And so in the first game of the preseason we decided not to play and just see what the reaction would be, knowing that we would be talking about it all the time. We didn’t decide then that we would never play the anthem – that wasn’t the case at all. We didn’t cancel the national anthem. Our flag always flew proudly on the wall of the American Airlines Center, and everyone had the opportunity to address it and pray to it or salute it or whatever.
Cuban added that the organization has always talked about the possibility of restoring the anthem at some point, probably when fans are allowed to return to the arena. The Mavericks had no fans for the first 10 games of the regular season before allowing 1,500 vaccinated representatives to attend Monday’s game against Minnesota for free.
“There was never a final decision not to play the national anthem,” Cuban said.
Following the NBA announcement, the Mavericks said they will play the anthem starting Wednesday night against Atlanta and will release a statement from the Cubs.
We respect and have always respected the passion people have for the anthem and for our country,” Cuban said in a statement. “But we also hear loudly the voices of those who do not feel represented by the anthem. We believe their voices should be respected and heard because their voices have not been heard.
“We hope that those who come forward will have the same passion for this issue and the same energy to listen to those who think differently than they do. Then we can move forward and have courageous conversations that move this country forward and find out what we have in common.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle was asked about the anthem issue Wednesday in the pregame.
“It’s a lively discussion, which of course is not surprising,” Mr. Carlisle said. “It was Mark’s decision. He was adamant about it. He had his reasons, and I know he issued a statement about it explaining his reasons. I also know that we will play the anthem at all home games in the future, just like every other team in the league.” It’s been a long day.
The Mavs’ petition to stop the national anthem was heard across the country, including a question to White House press secretary Jen Psaki during her daily briefing on Wednesday. Athletes’ protests of social and racial injustices during the national anthem were a focal point between then-President Donald Trump and several unions during his tenure.
Ms. Psaki said she had not spoken to President Joe Biden about the issue.
I know he is incredibly proud to be an American, and he has a lot of respect for the national anthem and everything it stands for,” Mr. Psaki said. He would also say that being proud of our country naturally includes recognizing that we as a country do not hold to our highest ideals.”
At the Texas Capitol, where Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick tweeted that Cubans should “sell the franchise and some Texas patriots will buy it.” Other GOP lawmakers have proposed an overhaul of the tax breaks enjoyed by the American Airlines Center.
Asked by Nichols about the reactions he received for not singing the national anthem, Cuban said, “When you try to do something difficult, it’s never easy. When you try to make a social change, it’s never easy”. We saw this all summer. We are listening to people; there have been many people who have tried to stand up for what they believe in, but they have not really been heard. These are difficult conversations that will not go away, whether we play the national anthem or not. We are just glad that this conversation took place of our own free will and not because of a tragedy that prompted it.”
According to NBA rules, players must stand during the anthem, but Silver refused to comply, especially since kneeling during the anthem has become a way to protest social injustice in recent years.
The vast majority of NBA players and many coaches knelt for the national anthem during the NBA’s relaunch last summer in Orlando, Florida, as the league incorporated messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice causes into the design of the courtroom and other resources.
In a June interview on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program, Cuban expressed his support for the players who knelt in protest during the national anthem.
“If they would get on their knees and show some respect, I would be proud of them. I hope I would have joined them,” Cuban said.
Cuban then added that he hoped the league would “allow the players to do what is in their hearts.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.