(Reuters) – Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s plan not to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” before home games may be short-lived as the NBA said on Wednesday all teams must play the national anthem prior to tipoff.
The Mavericks, who on Monday had a limited number of fans in their arena for the first time this season, have not played the national anthem prior to any of their 11 home games this season.
“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,” Mike Bass, the NBA’s chief communications officer, said in a statement.
Cuban, in reaction to the NBA statement, said the Mavericks respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and the United States.
“I have always stood for the anthem with the hand over my heart – no matter where I hear it played,” Cuban said in a statement. “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.”
Colin Kaepernick sparked national debate when he protested against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 while a quarterback for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
The act of kneeling during the national anthem had all but disappeared from sport, but returned last year following the death of George Floyd, which sparked protests across the United States over police brutality.
Players who competed in the postseason held on a restricted campus at Disney World last year knelt for the anthem while the NBA incorporated messaging on the court in support on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Last June, during an interview on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Cuban expressed support for NBA players kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)