NBA team Dallas Mavericks will no longer play the national anthem at home games, a decision made by the team’s billionaire owner Mark Cuban, who confirmed the change on Monday. The NBA later issued a statement saying the anthem would continue to be played.
Cuban confirmed to The Athletic that he decided to end the tradition of playing the Star-Spangled Banner before home games — a move that flew under the radar for the first games of the preseason and regular-season but was noticed Monday after the Mavericks allowed fans to once again enter the arena.
NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass issued a statement Wednesday regarding the league’s rule on playing the national anthem, stating, “With NBA teams now in the process of welcoming fans back into their arenas, all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy.”
Cuban has vocally supported players who choose to kneel during the national anthem, an exercise initiated in 2016 by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“If they were taking a knee, and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them,” Cuban told ESPN last year, adding that he hoped he would “join them.”
The outspoken owner later said in a now-deleted tweet, “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.”
Players are required to stand for the national anthem, according to NBA rules, which state, “Players, coaches and trainers must stand and line up in a dignified posture along the foul lines during the playing of the American and/or Canadian national anthems.”
Commissioner Adam Silber has been lenient on enforcement in recent years, opting to allow players to express themselves.
“I recognize that this is a very emotional issue on both sides of the equation in America right now,” Silver said during a press conference last year, “and I think it calls for real engagement rather than rule enforcement.”
NBA spokesman Tim Frank told Associated Press on Wednesday, “Under the unique circumstances of this season, teams are permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit.”
Cuban also made headlines last year when he defended doing business with China despite the country’s human rights violations against Muslim Uyghurs.
Megyn Kelly had asked Cuban how he justifies doing business with a country that has recently committed several human rights violations, including accusations of ethnic cleansing of the country’s Muslim minority, torture, forced labor, coercive population controls, forced abortions and forced sterilizations.
“I personally put a priority on domestic issues,” Cuban said on The Megyn Kelly Show. “When it comes to human rights, I’m against all human rights violations around the world. China is not the only country with human rights violations.”
When asked why he wouldn’t be specific about condemning China, Cuban responded, “Because the way proclamations work in this country, the minute you say, you’re going to use this as a headline.”
“What’s wrong with that headline?” Kelly responded, adding the theoretical headline “Cuban condemns ethnic cleansing in China.”
“Then I have to deal with the troll bots,” Cuban said. “What’s more important is to ask what actions I think are important to deal with these issues.” Increasing the number of slots available for asylum seekers in the United States, and then helping them find a job, is one way he has helped combat global human rights violations.
Megyn scoffed at Cuban’s response, adding “that isn’t a response to what’s happening in China” and asked why the NBA took over $500 million from a country that is engaging in ethnic cleansing.
“They are a customer. They are a customer of ours and guess what, Megyn? I’m ok with doing business with China,” Cuban said. “I wish I could solve all of the world’s problems, Megyn, and I’m sure you do, too. But we can’t. So, we have to pick our battles.”
Cuban also addressed the record-low viewership during the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with politics,” Cuban said. “I just think we don’t have the match-up and the storylines, and we didn’t do a good job promoting it.”
This article has been updated to add the NBA’s statement issued after publication.