The Dallas Mavericks have opted to stop playing the US national anthem before games this season, reports said Tuesday, breaking with a pre-game ritual that is widespread in American sport.
The Athletic website said the Mavericks’ policy against playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before home games at the American Airlines Center was confirmed by owner Mark Cuban. Cuban did not comment further.
The Athletic said the anthem had not been played before any of the Mavericks’ 13 home and regular season games this season, including Monday’s home win over Minnesota, where fans attended for the first time.
NBA rules require players to stand for the anthem, but commissioner Adam Silver has relaxed that rule following the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests which erupted after the death of George Floyd last year.
At the NBA’s 2020 season restart, virtually all players knelt during the anthem in a gesture that has come to symbolize solidarity with the movement.
An NBA spokesperson told The Athletic that “teams are permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit”, citing the unique circumstances of the 2020-2021 season.
Cuban has in the past spoken out in support of kneeling during the anthem, and in comments last year took aim at what he called the “National Anthem Police.”
Speaking about the prospects of Mavericks players kneeling during the NBA restart in Orlando, Cuban said in July: “If they were taking a knee, and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them. Hopefully, I’d join them.”
Later Cuban commented on Twitter: “The National Anthem Police in this country are out of control. If you want to complain, complain to your boss and ask why they don’t play the National Anthem every day before you start work.”
Playing “The Star Spangled Banner” before games has become part of the fabric of professional sports leagues in the United States.
However, how individual athletes chose to react during playing of the anthem became a deeply divisive issue during the administration of former US President Donald Trump.
Trump attacked National Football League players who took a knee during the anthem to draw attention to racial injustice as unpatriotic.