The NBA released a statement on Wednesday declaring that all teams will be required to play the National Anthem before games as fans are welcomed back into arenas across the country amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"With NBA teams now in process of welcoming fans back into their arenas, all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy," NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass said in the statement. This move comes on the heels of the news that the Dallas Mavericks ceased playing the 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.
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"It was my decision, and I made it in November," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said of the move, while declining further comment, per Marc Stein of the New York Times. A source close to Cuban said the decision to not play the anthem before games wasn'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 wanted to explore other ways of representing people from all communities while also honoring the U.S. at games. Now though the Mavericks will be mandated to play the anthem before all of its games.
Clearly, the league didn't want other teams to follow Dallas' lead in terms of not playing the anthem before games. The Mavericks will resume playing the anthem prior to their games beginning on Wednesday night.
"We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country," Cuban said in a statement. "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."
League rules technically state that players must stand for the national anthem, but those rules haven't been strictly enforced in recent years, as kneeling during the anthem has become a go-to form of peaceful protest of social injustice for players. Players on every team in the Orlando bubble knelt for the anthem when the season resumed last summer, and the league as a whole used the Disney bubble to promote the message of social justice. Perhaps ultimately there will be a larger conversation to be had regarding entirely eliminating the anthem before games, but for now the league has made its stance on the matter crystal clear.