The Dallas Mavericks became the first NBA team, and perhaps the first team in all of North American professional sports, to cease playing the national anthem before games this season. Dallas has hosted 12 regular-season games so far during the 2020-21 season, along with a single preseason game, and the team didn't play the anthem before any of the contests. A source close to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says the decision to not play the anthem before games isn't because the franchise lacks love for the United States, but rather because many in the organization feel that the anthem "doesn't represent them," according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. Instead, the Mavericks reportedly want to explore other ways of representing people from all communities while also honoring the U.S. at games.
"It was my decision, and I made it in November," Cuban said of the move, while declining further comment, per Marc Stein of the New York Times.
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There was no internal announcement about Dallas' decision, according to The Athletic's Tim Cato. Instead, team employees found out that the anthem wasn't being played when they realized it for themselves. The NBA's other 29 teams have found ways to play the anthem without necessarily having a singer in the building, largely by using recordings, but the league itself has permitted the choice not to play it at all. "Under the unique circumstances of this season, teams are permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit," a league spokesman told The Athletic.
Interestingly enough, this actually isn't the first time in Mavericks franchise history that the team has opted against playing the national anthem prior to games. From Stein:
For the club's first 16 years of existence, when it was owned by Donald Carter, "God Bless America" was sung instead before home games at the old Reunion Arena. The Mavericks began playing the national anthem after the team was purchased by Ross Perot Jr. on May 1, 1996. Cuban bought the Mavericks in January 2000.
League rules state that players must stand for the national anthem, but those rules have not been strictly enforced in recent years. Players on every team in the Orlando bubble knelt for the anthem when the season resumed last summer. Mark Cuban supported the decision, and the league as a whole used the Disney bubble to promote the social justice messaging such protests inspired. The Mavs have not offered comment on their long-term plans, but for the time being, the anthem will continue to not be played at home games in Dallas.