In the wake of the NBA’s statement Wednesday reiterating its long-standing policy that “all teams will play the national anthem,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said during an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump that his organization has no problem playing the anthem “at all,” and that the decision to not do so to this point in the season was the product of ongoing conversations with members of the community who felt the tradition “did not fully represent them.”
Cuban on Tuesday had told ESPN that he had made the decision to stop playing the national anthem before home games after consulting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. The Mavericks did not announce the change in policy, but the national anthem had not been played before any of their 13 preseason and regular-season games at the American Airlines Center this season.
“We’re always talking to our community. That’s something [Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall] stands for and is very insistent upon and has become a core part of who we are at the Dallas Mavericks,” Cuban told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on Wednesday. “In listening to the community, there were quite a few people who voiced their concerns, really their fears that the national anthem did not fully represent them, that their voices were not being heard. So we’ve had a lot of conversations about whether or not we should play the anthem. And so during the first preseason game, we decided to not play it and just see what the response was, knowing that we were going to have ongoing conversations about it. We didn’t make any decision to never play the national anthem then — that wasn’t the case at all. We didn’t cancel the national anthem. We still had our flag flying proud up on the wall at the American Airlines Center and everybody had the opportunity to address it and pray to it or salute to it or whatever their feelings are.”
Cuban added that the organization had always discussed the fact that it would probably resume the playing of the anthem at some point, likely when fans were allowed back in the arena. The Mavericks did not have fans for their first 10 regular-season games before allowing 1,500 vaccinated essential workers to attend Monday’s game against Minnesota for free.
“There was never any final decision that was made that we would not play the anthem,” Cuban said.
Following the NBA’s announcement, the Mavericks said they would play the anthem starting Wednesday night while releasing a statement from Cuban.
“We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country,” Cuban said in the statement. “But we also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them. We feel that their voices need to be respected and heard, because they have not been.
“Our hope is that going forward people will take the same passion they have for this issue and apply the same amount of energy to listen to those who feel differently from them. Then we can move forward and have courageous conversations that move this country forward and find what unites us.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle was asked about the anthem topic during his pregame media availability on Wednesday.
“It’s an animated discussion, which is certainly not surprising,” Carlisle said. “This was Mark’s decision. He was steadfast about it. He had his reasons, and I know he released a statement about it, explaining his reasons. I also know moving forward we will be playing the anthem at all home games, along with every other team in the league. It’s been quite a day.”
A recorded instrumental version of the anthem was played before the Mavs and Atlanta Hawks tipped off at the American Airlines Center.
The Mavs’ move to stop playing the anthem had reverberated around the country, including a question put to White House press secretary Jen Psaki during her daily briefing earlier Wednesday. Athlete protests of social and racial injustice during the anthem became a flash point between then-President Donald Trump and various leagues during his administration.
Psaki said she had not spoken to President Joe Biden about the issue.
“I know he’s incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents,” Psaki said. “He’d also say, of course, that part of pride in our country means recognizing where we as a country haven’t lived up to our highest ideals.”
Backlash to ending the anthem was swift in the Texas Capitol, where Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick urged Cuban, in a tweet, to “sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it.” Other GOP lawmakers suggested the tax breaks the American Airlines Center receives should come under new scrutiny.
Patrick said he intends to introduce a bill in the Texas Senate that will ensure the national anthem is played at all events that receive public funding. He said the bill has broad support.
“It is hard to believe this could happen in Texas, but Mark Cuban’s actions of yesterday made it clear that we must specify that in Texas we play the national anthem before all major events,” Patrick said. “In this time when so many things divide us, sports are one thing that bring us together — right, left, Black, white and brown.”
Asked by Nichols about the backlash he had received for not playing the anthem, Cuban replied, “When you try to do things that are hard, it’s never going to be easy. When you create social change, it’s never going to be easy. We saw that all summer long. We listen to people; there were a lot of people who tried to stand up for what they believe in and weren’t really heard. These are difficult conversations that are not going to go away, whether or not we play the national anthem. We’re just glad we’re having this conversation out of choice, not because of some tragedy that ignited the conversation.”
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 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.
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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.